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The Mormon Missionary Lessons

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The Mormon Missionary Lessons

The Bottom-Line Guide to Mormonism, Part 13
Robert M. Bowman Jr.

Mormon missionaries all follow the same teaching plan for proselytizing people for possible conversion to the LDS religion. This teaching plan consists of five lessons published in a manual called “Preach My Gospel”: A Guide to Missionary Service

Mormon Missionary Lessons

Evangelical Christian Response

1. Restoration: Christianity became apostate; Christ restored true Christianity through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

There was no complete apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1; Jude 3). Joseph Smith is not a true prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is not Scripture.

2. Plan of Salvation: God sent us here from heaven to die and rise to immortality through Jesus, God’s only literal son in the flesh, so we would have the potential to become like God.

We did not come from heaven; only Jesus, God’s unique, divine Son, did (John 1:14-18; 3:31; 20:28). Christ came to save us from hell, not to make us like God (Matt. 20:28; 25:46).

3. Gospel of Christ: Converts must believe the LDS view of Christ, stops sinning, be baptized as a Mormon, and fulfill LDS religious duties.

Converts must repent and believe in the biblical Christ; baptism is a sign of faith in Christ, not loyalty to a religious organization.

4. Commandments: Members should submit to the prophet, tithe to the LDS Church, and refrain from alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee.

Christians are expected to obey the teachings of the Bible, especially to love one another (Rom. 13:8-10).

5. Laws and ordinances: Mormons are expected to participate in the LDS Church’s ministries and rituals, especially in the temple.

The LDS Church’s ministries are based on an unbiblical view of priesthood and temple (Heb. 7-8).

Lesson One: The Restoration. Mormon missionary lessons begin with a lesson on the Restoration—the LDS belief that true Christianity disappeared from the earth for about seventeen centuries and was restored through Joseph Smith. Mormonism teaches that God sent Jesus to atone for the sins of all people and establish the Church. (This much sounds orthodox, but the second lesson reveals that it is not.) After Jesus ascended to heaven, wicked people killed off the apostles and the true Church soon ceased to exist on earth. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 to tell him that all of the churches were wrong. Angels and other heavenly beings appeared to Joseph and God enabled him to translate the Book of Mormon and start the LDS Church. The key to this message is the Book of Mormon; the missionaries encourage prospects to read it and to ask God for a personal revelation that it is true. 

Mormon missionaries bring a different gospel (see Gal. 1:6-9). Although there has always been some apostasy (falling away from the faith) within Christianity, the New Testament makes it clear that the church was never going to become completely apostate (Matt. 16:18; 28:20; Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Tim. 4:1; Jude 3). Christians should pray for wisdom and discernment when reading the Book of Mormon (or anything else), but there is no biblical basis for asking God to provide a spiritual revelation that the Book of Mormon is true. Rather, we should search the Scriptures to determine if the claimed new revelations agree with what God has already revealed (Acts 17:11). 

Lesson Two: The Plan of Salvation. The second lesson presents an overview of cosmic history. We were originally spirit children of Heavenly Father, living with him in heaven before coming to earth. Adam and Eve did not sin, but nobly chose to eat of the forbidden fruit so they could become mortal, have children, and exercise their ability to make choices. Then God sent Jesus to earth as his only literal Son in the flesh to die and rise immortal from the grave so that all people could also become immortal. Depending on how we respond to this message and how worthy we prove ourselves in this life, we will live forever in one of three kingdoms of glory. In the highest of these, the celestial kingdom, we will have the potential to become like God. 

Although it retains the truth that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, almost everything else about the Mormon plan of salvation is unbiblical. Adam and Eve sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit (Rom. 5:14-19). Jesus is the only human being who previously had existed in heaven (John 3:31; 16:28). He is not God’s literal son in the flesh because God the Father is infinite Spirit, not an exalted Man (Num. 23:19; John 4:20-24). Rather, Jesus is the Father’s unique, eternal Son and as such is himself God (John 1:1, 14-18; 20:28). Depending on whether people receive God’s gift of salvation in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Eph. 2:8-10), they will receive either eternal life in the new heavens and new earth or eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20-22). 

Lesson Three: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite the title of this lesson, its focus is really on becoming members of the LDS Church. Missionaries teach that converts need to accept the LDS view of Christ, repent (stop committing known sins), be baptized into the LDS Church, and participate in its meetings and other obligations. By contrast, evangelical missionaries focus on leading people to faith in Christ and do not present their church organization as necessary to the convert’s salvation. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5). 

Lesson Four: The Commandments. One might think that this lesson focused on the Ten Commandments; they are included, but “the commandments” to which the lesson refers are all of the LDS Church’s requirements. These include studying the LDS scriptures, “following the prophet” (accepting the current LDS Church President’s teaching), abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee (a prerequisite for baptism), and tithing to the LDS Church. That a convert must accept the LDS President’s authority and agree to tithe to the LDS Church before being baptized confirms that baptism means something different in Mormonism than it does in evangelical Christianity, where it is simply a sign of commitment to Christ, not to a particular organization (Acts 2:37-41; 16:31-33; 1 Cor. 1:13-17). Evangelical Christians are expected to live according to the Bible’s teachings, and especially to love one another (Matt. 7:12; 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-10), not to submit to manmade religious rules (Col. 2:16-23). 

Lesson Five: Laws and Ordinances. After converts are baptized, missionaries teach them about specific religious obligations and expectations within the LDS Church. Mormon males twelve and up receive the Aaronic priesthood, authorizing them to assist in performing baptisms and “the sacrament” (LDS Communion). As they get older, males receive the Melchizedek priesthood, qualifying them for church offices. Women and younger children are to participate in “auxiliary organizations,” notably the women’s Relief Society. LDS couples should pursue “eternal marriage” in a Mormon temple, and all worthy members should participate in temple ceremonies, including baptisms for the dead. The Mormon view of the priesthood radically departs from what the New Testament says about priesthood (notably in Hebrews 7), and from a New Testament perspective the temple is an outmoded institution (Hebrews 8). 

This brief overview of the Mormon missionary lessons demonstrates that the lessons are focused on proselytizing people, especially people of a Christian background, into the LDS religion. Belief in Jesus Christ is part of these lessons, but in large measure the lessons assume some sort of belief in Christ and are intended to persuade those with such belief to join the LDS Church.