Anti-Mormon Literature Response

I have lead a pretty sheltered life as far as anti-Mormon literature is concerned. I grew up in a place where everyone was a member of the church. It wasn’t until my mission when I really came across much of it for the first time. I mocked it as being pretty much ‘National Inquirer’ level stuff. After I got home from my mission I found out that a friend of my father’s had left the church and started an anti-Mormon newsletter. He sent us one, and I took the liberty of writing a rebuttal. It was kinda fun – perhaps the blogger in me was already started. The newsletter really only strengthened my testimony because of the easy explanations I found, and besides this guy was always a bit of a nutcase.

Last Saturday two events occurred that will forever change my view of anti-Mormon literature and the effect it can have.

The first event happened that morning at work. Another engineer who was my cubical neighbor had quit and Friday was his last day. On Friday night he built what seemed to me to be a monument to himself out of several empty coffee cans in the shape of a pyramid on his desk. He had a few copies of his resume laying around, a farewell letter from himself, and a bunch of ‘Jesus is Lord’, and ‘Jesus Saves’ pictures that he had drawn all over his office. And then I noticed on his keyboard an anti-Mormon pamphlet with the words ‘The Truth Shall Make You Free’ written on a sticky note. With the very small number of Mormons at this place, I felt that the pamphlet was mostly left for me. Why would he feel the need to do this as part of his good-bye? I had felt that we had gotten along quite well. This is the aspect that changed my view of anti-Mormon literature. The content had not changed, but this time it came from someone I had considered a friend.

I took the pamphlet off his keyboard and was about to throw it away. As I thought about it I decided to respond to it. He left it for a reason right? The bloggernacle is wearing off on me, so I got his personal e-mail address of his resume and decided to send a rebuttal. I tried to be constructive in my defense, so if there was a sincere truth seeker inside him it could be helpful. But I kind of doubted it would have much of an effect. I wondered if I was doing the right thing the whole time.

On Monday he sent a reply to me. He made a few additional Mormon jabs, but overall it was a positive reply. He apologized for leaving the pamphlet behind. He the did something I did not expect. He testified to me of his religious beliefs. I had never really experienced that before. I had people tell me I was deceived lots of times. I have heard people say simple things like ‘Jesus is Lord’ before, but nothing like what I would consider a positive and meaningful testimony. This is part of what he said:

You see Eric, I am a Christian. That means i Beleive Jesus died for my
sins and the sin I was born with. I have asked him to forgive me for that
sin and he has covered it with his atoning blood. I believe the thief on
the cross was forgivien and lives in heaven with Jesus even though he didn’t
do any good works. All the good works we do are like filthy rags to God.
All he wants is my life, all of me.

Of course there are some things here that I have a problem with, but after this, I had no more desire to debate. I thanked him for sharing his religious beliefs, let him know there were no hard feelings, wished him well, and clicked send. I thought of the many times I was only getting into contention on my mission when I decided to just bear a simple quick testimony and try to leave on good terms, and now it had happened to me. I hope that I didn’t mess things up and that we really did part on good terms.

The second event was that on the same day my oldest son received an e-mail from a friend at school that was basically a cut and paste of anti-Mormon statements. My son is 13. I am thinking about calling the boys parents to see if they would mind if we sent a reply and going through the issues with my son as a learning experience. I’m not sure what is best here. Is it better to try and respond to this stuff, or just throw it away. Anti-Mormon literature is different when it comes from a friend.

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25 Responses to “Anti-Mormon Literature Response”


  1. 1 GailLP March 30, 2006 at 12:47 am

    Most Christian centered so-called “anti-Mormon” material is really pretty poor. I used to collect it on my mission and for years afterwards. I mostly just dismissed it as so much unwanted noise as if anti-Mormons were required by law to write only false and misleading things. What I have discovered since is their methodology is not much different from the church’s methodology just in reverse. Anti’s extract from the historical record that which will best reflect the negative mythic picture they wish to present even if they are using credible historical facts and sources. Mormonism OTOH extracts from that same historical record only that which paints the church in the most positive colors even if they are using credible historical facts and sources. If one were to only read anti work Mormonism would look like a satanic cult suffering from extreme libidos. If one were to only read the Mormon version one would think the church was saintly white without a wart or a blemish anywhere. Without dueling polemics accusing and defending few in the past would ever have known a more realistic story. Today the polemics still clearly exist, but there is a much stronger middle ground of real scholars than ever before who are much more interested in getting the story right and satisfying their career peer review than they are in satisfying either polemic force. Today if one wishes to understand their religious historical and doctrinal roots they have a whole new genre to play in that is significantly less biased than the two polemics.

  2. 2 GailLP March 30, 2006 at 1:01 am

    I also see you have discovered the spiritual conundrum of dueling testimonies.

  3. 3 manaen March 30, 2006 at 1:52 am

    The excerpt from your co-worker’s email sounds like very solid LDS doctrine to me, although we’d give a different nuance in recognizing that Christ already paid for original sin instead of having to ask him to do so.

    As far as our works in this life, they really do have no value except as our natures conform to God’s as we do them. Elder Oaks’ “The Challenge of Becoming” (GenCon 10/2000) explains this well.

    A quote Elder Oaks’ talk: “From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts–what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts–what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

    I believe that what will matter is whether though our own mix of obedience, repentance, service, and love have developed Godlike natures that will fit in the Celestial Kingdom, sometimes known as working out our own salvation. If so, Christ’s atonement will cover all before that. This is the message of the parable in which all laborers received the same reward, regardless of whether the started working for the Lord of the vineyard early or late.

    In this sense, your friend is correct about the thief on the cross — his heart has right. I believe this is the same reason Brigham Young declared that the three teenagers, who gave their own lives to ferry the weary pioneers across the freezing river, qualified by that alone for the Celestial Kindgom. It wasn’t the act, but their already-celestial nature that the act revealed.

    Obedience without this change in nature, Alma’s mighty change of heart, leave us in the circumstance of Matt 7:21-23: obedient, but not doing the will of the Father (Elder Oaks’ “become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become”), hence never knowing him.

    The last lines from your friend about works = dirty rags and “All he wants is my life, all of me” is exactly the main thesis of Sister Rasband’s “Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem” (out of print, but available used on Amazon) in which she explains that we can’t earn God’s love, we don’t need to because it’s always available, so just accept it from him. What God really wants isn’t super-human service but that we give our hearts completely to him. Once we do that, burn-out leaves and his burden really becomes light. We then truly trust the atonement and can realize the amazing promise that “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).

    I’m trying to say that we likely won’t bring our friends to the blessings of the true Church if we argue with them when they speak the truth. If we disagree with the truth they do have, they are not likely to see as a source of truth they do not yet have.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson March 30, 2006 at 8:32 am

    Thanks Dave, that seems like good advice.

  5. 5 Eric Nielson March 30, 2006 at 8:35 am

    Gaillp:

    Thanks for reading and leaving a reply. Yes, I believe there is probably a more legitamae discourse going on now between both sides than ever before. Hopefully that will lead to good results.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson March 30, 2006 at 8:44 am

    manaen:

    Great reply. I have always thought that if ‘main stream christians’ were to really understand what Mormons believe and if Mormons were to really understand what ‘main stream christians’ believe we would find that we are not as far apart as we sometimes think.

    Part of the reason I decided not to continue in further discussion was the overall quality of his reply to me.

    I don’t like the filthy rags image any way it is sliced. God said if you love me, keep my commandments. Submitting to God’s will and keeping his commandments takes effort and shows love, I don’t believe he would view that as filthy rags.

    I agree with your statements and quotes that what ultimately matters is what we become, my father and I have made posts to that effect before.

    I also wonder about the thief on the cross. We make a lot of assumptions about him. Perhaps he was innocient and falsly accused? In addition, paradise is not the highest degree of the CK either.

  7. 7 sean p. March 30, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Eric,

    Knowing the guy you are referring to, I guess I’m not too surprised.

    I agree that we are not as far apart as we might think. It’s interesting though, because main-stream Christians are walking a fine line with LDS members. They profess a faith (in Christ), and try to encourage the world to accept and believe, and thus ADD TO faith. That’s easy to do, generally speaking. But with Mormons, they are actually trying to convert them AWAY FROM faith, by saying “don’t believe all this other stuff”. I don’t think they know quite what to do with us because of this very fact. Personally, I would find it fascinating to listen to someone try to tell me about more stuff that I didn’t know or believe. But I don’t find it at all flattering to be encouraged to deny something that I strongly believe. It makes me wonder how difficult it must be for them to talk to us. Just a thought.

  8. 8 Hellmut March 30, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    The first time someone other than a Mormon gave her testimony to me was a “Jew for Jesus” at the campus bus stop. I suspect that she was less Jewish than me. Nonetheless, when she said “Have you prayed about it?” I realized that there are millions of people out there who think that God revealed to them that Mormonism is “evil.”

    I am not comfortable with the Jesus died for me mantra of fundamentalist Protestants. At some level, they are doctrinally correct that Jesus died for the sins of every single human being. Nonetheless, I cannot shake the impression that it’s suddenly all about me. It feels like Jesus is marketed in the same way as any other feel good product.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson March 30, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    Sean:

    I am not sure I understand here. Does not President Hinkley say something like, ‘Come with what truth you have and see if we can’t add to it’? Are we not the ones attempting to add to the faith of others? Are we not the one’s with more to offer, doctrinally speaking at least? Are not typical ‘born again’ christians bringing things down to the ‘God is Love’, ‘saved by grace alone’ level? Are they not the ones trying to ‘take away’ in this relationship?

  10. 10 Eric Nielson March 30, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    hellmut:

    Thanks for reading this and leaving a comment. Do you feel that people really believe that God has revealed to them that Mormonism is evil, or are they following the lead of their religious leaders?

  11. 11 Naiah Earhart March 30, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    Whoa, Eric…
    I’m sorry, and good call on not taking it further with the ex-coworker. There’s only contention down that path, and that won’t do him or you any good.

    As for the email from the friend, at least go through ti with your son. After dissecting and discussing it (each point) together, ask him what he’d like to do in response. Pray together about it, sleep on it, and then decide together the next day. Remember that’s *his* relationship, and he’s the one to bear any social repercussions from it. Good luck, dad. That one’s huge.

  12. 12 Aaron Shafovaloff March 30, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    You might be interested in:

    http://www.MormonWiki.org

  13. 13 manaen March 31, 2006 at 3:34 am

    “I don’t like the filthy rags image any way it is sliced. God said if you love me, keep my commandments. Submitting to God’s will and keeping his commandments takes effort and shows love, I don’t believe he would view that as filthy rags.”

    You triggered several thoughts by this paragraph:

    1) The filthy-rags image offends us because its denigrating and we do not believe God or Jesus ever intend to denigrate us or our efforts to follow them. However, removing the qualitative connotation, the quantification is fairly accurate. Moses was surprised to learn “that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Mos. 1:10). King Benjamin counseled that we “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness” (Msh 4:11). We see from these that we are nothing and I believe that the filthy-rags image is intended to remind us of that.

    However, the denigration of that image is proven false by Moses learning very quickly that God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the exaltation of nothing-man. Likewise, King Benjamin likewise gave the astounding promise “that if ye do this [remember God’s greatness and our nothingness] ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins” (Msh 4:12).

    The difference is that God does love us and wants us to love Him. Like loving earthly parents, He values our efforts to keep the commandments and the love this shows. However, compared to God’s obedience to eternal principals, ours is nothing. Compared to God’s love for us, ours for Him is nothing. Compared to the works of service He does (e.g. creation, atonement, free agency, salvation, exaltation) ours are nothing. Compared to the beauty of his creation, our artistic achievements are nothing. Measuring their inherent value on an eternal scale — not the growth they demonstrate — our works, obedience, and even our love really are as valuable as filthy rags. Recognizing this is an essential part of the broken heart and contrite spirit, as well as fully facing our guilt and need for Christ’s atonement.

    How grateful we should be for grace – God’s *gift* of the whole plan of salvation!
    “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.” (Eph 2:8-9)

    2) Maybe the reason Evangelicals and their fellow travelers so easily denigrate us in their writings, demonstrations at GenCon and temple dedications, and even their emails is that they so thoroughly denigrate themselves with images like the filthy rags. This is confusing to us because we believe Christ’s gospel is to elevate, not to put down (after accepting our true starting point of nothingness/humility). Maybe we’re not getting special treatment: they denigrate *everybody*, even themselves! What a sad variance from the true gospel.

    3) Jesus did say “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) I’ve been wondering for a while about this. If, as I believe, Jesus suffered for each of our sins in Gethsemane and on Calvary and not a general eternal torment to cover everything, then each sin that I commit adds to the agony that he experienced to save me. If so, would each sin that I forego spare him agony that He would have felt? If this is true, a paraphrase of this statement’s meaning would be: “I love you so much that I will suffer for your sins so that you will be able to repent and return with me to our Father. I will do this for you. If you love me, you will keep my commandments so as not to add to my pain to save you. Will you do this for me?”

    Alma foretold that Jesus would suffer not only for our sins, but also that “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. […] and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Al 7:11-12). Does this likewise mean that whenever I lessen another’s pains, afflictions, sicknesses, and infirmities – including despair, addictions, abuse, loss of employment, ignorance, isolation – that I again lessen the agonies Christ did suffer/would have suffered (verb tenses get tricky in a scenario in which past, present, and future continually are before God and Christ) for us? If so, this gives richer meaning to Alma’s baptismal challenge to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (Msh 18:9) as we take Christ’s name upon us or later guidance to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5, Hel 12:12). If this is true, King Benjamin’s declaration that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Msh 2:17) becomes very literal.

    But then, the commandments in “keep my commandments” was summarized by Christ himself as love God and love each other.

  14. 14 Eric Nielson March 31, 2006 at 8:44 am

    Naiah:

    Thanks for the comment. Especially regarding my son. This is what I decided to do on my own. It just took me a couple of days to realize that, when it took you like a minute. Mybe you’re a 200? 🙂

    Manaen:

    Good points all. I normally tend to lean toward ‘the worth of souls is great’ end than the ‘lower than the dust’ end. Sometimes we need one message sometimes the other. I think either end of the spectrum, overemphasized is wrong. Salvation by grace alone – wrong IMO. Salvation by works alone – wrong IMO. ‘It is by grace ye are saved after all you can do’.

  15. 15 manaen March 31, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    Ummh – maybe we should tread softly regarding your coworker’s comment about “filthy rags;” it comes from Isa 64:6.

    The complete passage is more hopeful in the same sense as the sections from Mos 1 and Msh 4 that I cited earlier compare our nothingness with God’s exalting plan for us:

    6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [works] are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
    7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
    8 But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

    Again, we’ll do better not to argue with our non-LDS friends when they’re right!

    I believe this is a good example of how OT works of themselves did not save — just as ours do not. As we discussed earlier, it is what we become by obeying the commandments that qualifies us for Gods’ gifts of salvation and exaltation. We certainly don’t *earn* them by anything we do.

    With this frame of reference, we have common ground with your friend, who appears to believe that we somehow believe that our works can save us. Correcting that misunderstanding might open Evangelical hearts to the truths we have that they lack.

  16. 16 Eric Nielson April 1, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    manaen:

    All of us need to believe the Bible. Not a verse here, or a verse there, but the whole thing. Read all the scriptures you can find on grace, and all the scriptures you can find on works, all from the Bible if you wish. To force it to be either/or misses the point. It is both, not either. And yes, the end result will be what we have become through faith and obedience.

  17. 17 annegb April 1, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Eric, how was your view and the effect changed? I didn’t find that in your comments.

    My view is that somebody is wasting a lot of their time slamming somebody else. I’ve seen the effect (affect?not sure) in my sister’s life as she left the church, burned her garments and her Book of Mormon and spoke against the church with the Godmakers maker.

    Her children are all in trouble.

    On the other hand, I stayed and most of my kids are in trouble :).

    I really want to know what you meant in your second paragraph.
    gardnera@netutah.com

  18. 18 Eric Nielson April 1, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    annegb:

    The change I felt, but did not explain very well, is that in the past I looked at anti stuff only interms of mainly lame content. But now, when I have been given some from a friend it hurts emotionally. Before it was coming from random strangers, who of course didn’t care how it might affect me. It was easier to laugh off. Now it’s personal. It hurts more because of the source not the content. I understand more now how it could disturb people who are thinking about joining the church. I used to ask, ‘how could people be drawn away by this stuff?’ Perhaps it often isn’t the content that does the drawing away, but the source of the content.

    Is that a little better? THanks for pointing out my lack of expression here.

  19. 19 Eric Nielson April 1, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    manaen:

    I neglected to say that was a nice pull on the Isaiah verse, I had not remembered that one.

    Also, I’ve been wondering if there is a lack of understanding on my part here. When I think of works in this context I always think of obedience and repentance, and the ordinances. First principles stuff. I do not think of helping old ladies across the steet, baking bread kind of stuff. Am I different from most in this? Was Isaiah referring to obedience to commandments as one of the filthy rags? I doubt it.

  20. 20 manaen April 1, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    IMHO both kinds of works, niceness and obeying commandments fall under “dirty rags.” I’ll try to shorten what could become a lenthy(er) discussion.

    Grace = doing something for someone out of kindness or love instead of a requirement. So, “God’s grace” refers to anything of that nature he does for us.

    What effect would any kind of our good works have without God’s grace, as manifested in the repentance made possible through the Atonement. We’d be wiser but still guilty, never to remain in God’s presence again. From this, I believe that there is *no* salvation in works; it all depends upon God’s grace.

    What would be our lot without God’s grace, as manifested in the resurrection? We’d become better creatures until we die and then never able to experience the fullness of joy that requires (re)union of body and spirit. (D&C 93:33, 138:17)

    Speaking of create-ures, what works would we be able to do without God’s grace, as manifested in the Creation? None because we’d remain as intelligences, probably unable to act at all. We’d never live, as we know life, nor die.

    Would we know which acts were the good ones without God’s grace, as manifested in the gifts of the light of Christ all receive and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? No, we’d be blind and die before accumulating enough understanding to make enough correct choices.

    What would be our state, having sinned and desiring to repent without God’s grace, as manifest in the Atonement? We’d be condemned for/by our sins, never to have forgiveness nor the healing of the soul/change of nature that comes through as a gift to the lowly in heart and contrite in spirit.

    We could go on. The point I hope to make is that it’s all dependent upon God’s grace and that our struggles are just struggles without it. Every step in the plan of salvation depends upon grace and even our ability to act in it is a gift of grace from God.

  21. 21 Eric Nielson April 2, 2006 at 9:51 am

    manaen:

    I agree with what your saying….but.

    Yes God’s grace makes all of this possible, but it is up to us to truly repent. That is the primary work we must do. Is repentance a filthy rag? Can God repent for us, or is this something we must do ourselves? Is repentance not a requirement for a fulness of salvation? Repentance is the primary work we must do, God can not repent for us, it is a requirement for salvation.

  22. 22 Ann April 2, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Fundamentalist Christianity believers think the LDS understanding of the very nature of God and Jesus is incorrect. Further, they think that those differences are not nit-picky little things, but are significant and important.

    The consequences of either side being wrong are very, very different, depending on what side you’re on. If the Fundies are right and LDS are wrong, then LDS are going to burn in everlasting torment after death. I think that’s a huge part of their motivation – they’re really concerned that LDS not burn in Hell forever. Conversely, if LDS are right and they are wrong, they’re stuck with the terrestrial glory, which isn’t all they can obtain but really isn’t such a terrible consequence.

  23. 23 annegb April 2, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    Oh, yeah, Eric, I understand now, I think. We are sort of programmed, I think, to feel we must be the bigger person, but we can be hurt when people disregard our feelings and slam our beliefs. I’m sorry that happened to you.

    I was intrigued because of what happened with my sister. I tend to be self righteous, but I was blessed to be able to stay totally loving toward her through it all. I have never once, in 15 years, argued with her about it.

    Dave, your question in your first sentence–the problem with that logic is that LDS pamphlets don’t attack other faiths–these things that people like the Godmakers do attack our religion directly as a tool of Satan. They describe the temple ordinances, and truly trash what we find holy. That’s discourteous, unkind.

    Manean and Eric, I always love discussions of grace. I think it’s the most overlooked principle in our religion and crucially important.

    I don’t always follow, but I’m gratful for anything that stimulates my thinking about grace. I think God is going to be way more merciful and nice than we fear.

  24. 24 sean p. April 2, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    Eric,

    I agree completely. I think maybe you misunderstood my comments. If you read it again, my reference of “with the Mormons” was from the perspective of the Protestants. In other words, it is the Protestants that have an uphill battle in trying to take away our faith. Thus my point that it must be very difficult for them to talk with us, and why we see so many hit-and-runs like the one you experienced with our collegue.

  25. 25 Eric Nielson April 2, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Ann:

    Thank you so much for your comments. I think you are right on the mark here.

    annegb:

    I am still sorting through this a bit. I admire that you have been patient with your sister. In a way I wish I had. That is another aspect of this. Because it came from someone I knew, I felt more obligated to say something. Perhaps I should not have. On my mission I kept a list of all the best scriptures from the Bible I could find on ‘works’. I never used it once, because I showed restraint when it looked like it was just going to be an argument. I didn’t show the same restraint here.

    Sean:

    Thanks for your clarification.


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