I was mowing my lawn today when I glanced to my right and saw two young men walking down the street in my direction. They were wearing the standard white shirts and pocket ID’s so I knew they were Mormons. I thought that if I ignored them they would pass by.
So, I made another swipe across the length of my lawn and when I came back, I noticed that they weren’t on the street. I looked for them and couldn’t see where they had disappeared … until I saw movement at the side door to my house. They were ringing my doorbell!
I shut off the lawnmower and walked toward them as I introduced myself. Sure enough, they were Mormons (although they introduced themselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).
Ordinarily, I may have simply told them I wasn’t interested and sent them on their way. But today, I wanted to engage them in conversation. I wanted to brush up on my understanding of Mormonism. So, I was completely upfront at the beginning of our conversation and told them I was the pastor of Westside Baptist Church (they noticed my shirt with Westside’s logo). I let them know I’d love to talk with them about their beliefs and my own if they had time. They graciously agreed.
Without making this a longer post than it already is, I want to simply point out one major point that I was reminded of during our conversation – how two people can use the same word(s) and mean two totally different things!
In “The Princess Bride” (one of my favorite movies), one of the main characters named Inigo Montoya had a perplexed look on his face as he looked at his boss, Vizzini, who had just said “Inconceivable!” for the umpteenth time. Inigo says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
That’s exactly what I felt like telling those Mormons today. For instance, I asked them how they believed they would get to Heaven. One of them said, “Have faith in Jesus, repent of my sins and then get baptized and obey the Lord’s commandments.”
Well, I thought that didn’t sound so bad on it’s face. But those words don’t mean what you think they mean. As I probed, they acknowledged that they didn’t believe that Jesus is God. They believed that he was created by God (further reading here). They soundly disagreed that Jesus is God in the flesh.
Regarding baptism, they don’t believe that it is simply the first step of obedience after being saved (as the Bible teaches). They believe that it is absolutely essential to salvation (further reading here). If you don’t get baptized, you aren’t going to Heaven.
Regarding obeying God’s commands, they don’t believe (like the Bible teaches) that we will obey God’s Word after being saved because of our love for God. No, they believe that if they don’t do a lot of good things for the Lord, they aren’t going to Heaven (further reading here). They really do believe that having faith in Jesus and repentance isn’t enough. You MUST get baptized and work or you won’t get to Heaven.
Upon further discussion, they acknowledged that the Bible isn’t their only source for knowing what God requires. One of them pointed out that since much of the Bible is up for interpretation (in their estimation), then there needed to be a further source to clarify what God actually meant. [Enter, the Book of Mormon.] They believe that The Book of Mormon is the Word of God and definitively explains what the Bible says (further reading here).
And what do they believe about Heaven? Well, it’s not one earth and new heavens like the last two chapters of Revelation tell us. Instead, each person (male) who has made it will get his own planet and will essentially be the “god” or ruler over that planet (begin studying on this here). There is much more that Mormons believe about this but you can do your own research.
All of this to say that when you talk to someone about their faith and they use words that you use, don’t automatically assume that they MEAN the same thing.
It very well could be that those words don’t mean what you think they mean.