Mormonism is a strange beast. However, like Jehovah’s witnesses, they are so faithful to their worldview they mandate door to door evangelism. This provides many opportunities to dialogue and debate with those lost in this system.
There are just so many things that we differ on, it can be very hard to know where to begin and which roads to go down. When dealing with Mormon elders I have often times experienced the struggle of trying go down one specific direction, when in our discussion something else comes up and then we go down that one instead. The conversation quickly turns into a bunch of mice chasing one another through a sophisticated maze. It is difficult to not talk past each other and to control the focus of the conversation.
Allow me to give some background information on the route that I believe is best for staying focused and on task. It also seems to be the most simple and strongest defense against Mormon theology.
Before we dive in, let me first tell you where not to begin. Do not start by trying to intimidate them with their bizarre beliefs (to be blunt) and their idiosyncratic traditions. Do not bring up their secret marital temple names, do not bring up their sacred garments, etc. Do not mock them. Why would they be open to the Gospel if it was preceded by mockery?
I also would not begin with the archaeological arguments. While the lack of archaeological evidence to support their unhistorical claims should buffer our faith, it is not powerful to them. The Christian faith was not concerned with the archaelogical evidence prior to it. It certainly supports our position now, but before they were discovered it was meaningless to us.
Bringing up some of their bizarre beliefs is a good thing to do, but I would not lead with those. There is nothing wrong with pointing out Joseph Smith’s obvious moral flaws and clear false prophecies which exclude him from being a prophet. Challenging their beliefs that men can become gods and be given their own planets to govern and create and their beliefs that could can learn and change and was once a man is good. However, I think there is an easier place to start that doesn’t require as much needed evidence and documentation on your behalf.
First thing is first: every debate, with anyone, is always a debate about authority. Every issue we debate with people that isn’t explicitly about authority is always a surface issue debate. For example, when a Christian and a non-Christian debate an issue like homosexuality, they will eventually get to authority. I know homosexuality to be wrong because the Bible says so. If I were debating someone on homosexuality and I were to say that, the debate would immediately become a debate about the Bible and God and not homosexuality. The same is the case in light of our evangelism to those enslaved to the ‘gospel’ of Mormonism. In fact, it is the very nature of presuppositional apologetics is to get to authority questions early and explicitly.
Biblical evangelicals proclaim Sola Scripture. We believe the Bible to be the final appeal over all other authorities and traditions we appeal to. We believe the Bible to be the only infallible authority over the Christian and is self-sufficient for doctrine and godliness. The Mormon has five authorities: The Bible (with some nuances), The Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, the obvious one being the book of Mormon and lastly the church (or modern day prophets). This is why conversations are difficult. This is why we struggle so much when debating man made religions; they appeal to different authorities.
Here is where I think Christians should go: Isaiah 43-46.
Mormons believe in something called “The Great Apostasy”. Risking misrepresentation, allow me to give a very brief description of what it is. Mormons believe the Priesthood as they understand it is necessary for doctrinal and moral life. One must be anointed in order to speak for God. However, after the last apostle was murdered, no more priesthood existed. Thus, the Church was lost and human history fell into a state of great apostasy and the true religion was utterly lost from the face of the earth. This is why (the) god(s) came to Joseph Smith; to reestablish what was lost.
Now, let’s first make a few comments about this. This really is a brilliant rescuing device. For one, it saves them from having to feel any conviction that there is not a shred of historical evidence of people believing what Mormons believe today. Nothing they promote can be found in church history. The fact that their beliefs are non-historical and modern doesn’t bother them though because that’s what you would expect if the world fell into a great apostasy.
This also flies right against the testimony of Scripture that God will preserve His people and His truth and His Church in and through all generations. Matthew 16:18 shuts down any universal claims of apostasy.
I also find it strange that it’s so comfortable to believe that God’s truth was totally and utterly lost for the first 1500 years of church. God was not able to preserve and protect His Gospel from all-mighty sinners apparently.
However, here is the point:
Although Mormons believe that there was a great apostasy, they believe it started after the death of the last apostle. That means that they believe the apostles were Mormons. That is, they believe they were teaching Mormon theology. Now we have the authority to work with: the Bible.
Since Mormons believe Joseph Smith restored the faith and didn’t institute the faith, they must then be able to defend all their beliefs (or at least most of their fundamental ones) with the Bible. If the Biblical authors believed in Mormon theology, then it would show up in their writings to their churches. Thus, the Mormon needs to be able to defend their doctrines with the Bible alone. They need to show you where their doctrines are in the apostolic message. Don’t let them bounce back and forth between Joseph Smith and modern day apostolic teachings; hold them to the Scriptures.
Where should you start then? You should begin with Isaiah. Specifically, begin with chapters 44-46.
Mormon doctrine is clearly polytheistic. That is they believe in multiple gods. They explicitly deny the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Some traditions of Joseph Smith’s revelation place three gods at the scene: the god Jesus, the god Heavenly Father and the holy Spirit god. All three were separate divine beings. That’s at least three. Mormons also believe that Jesus and Heavenly Father were both fully man and achieved their divinity and that men on earth today can do so as well. Thus, they believe in many gods; it’s a constantly growing number. However, if you read Isaiah 43-46, you will see God making clear statements about His monotheistic nature.
Go through Isaiah and highlight this verse from chapter 43:
10: Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.
Then highlight these found in 44:
6-7: Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.‘Who is like Me?
And also from 45:
5-6: I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God…I am the Lord, and there is no other.14: Surely God is with you, and there is no other; there is no other god.
18: I am the Lord, and there is no other.
21-22: Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
lastly, highlight these from 46:
There we have it. In only four chapters, the Bible clearly testifies to monotheism. The Mormon MUST defend their polytheism from the Scriptures. They believe that the apostles believed in Mormon theology. Where did any apostle teach polytheism?
Ask the Mormon how many gods there are. As soon as they admit there is more than one (it will take time to get them there) take them to these verses and ask them how they harmonize them. Ask them where their polytheism was taught by the apostles before it was lost.
Here we see a wonderful display of the presuppositional answer to the question of how one knows Mormonism is not true. The answer is that Mormonism cannot be true because it contradicts previous divine revelation.
Mormonism provides an idol god and a false gospel. Let us seek to save those who God brings to our doors through the Word of God.