You say you feel that a great spiritual loss has occurred? All your prayers, witnessing, and concern for the family next door seem futile now, because they have just been baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Now that they have embraced strange doctrines and new revelation, you don’t even have the freedom to discuss spiritual things with them that you once had, you say? I can sympathize with you! It is a tragedy indeed.

But you say this is all the work of Satan—blinding minds, leading people into error? Do I hear you asking, “How can people be so misled? How could they ever accept such teaching?” At this point I can only partly agree with you, for I think we cannot blame it all on the devil.

In recent years the Mormon church has been recording fantastic gains. Since 1967 nearly a million people have been added, giving the church over 3.2 million followers. No other cult confronts the true Church with a more serious challenge.

If we look into the reasons for the growth of the Mormon church, I am convinced that we will be shocked with a tremendous reality: the Mormon church is growing today because people see in it the very points of appeal that the Word of God says a church should have!

Let me clarify this. First, I do not mean to suggest that most people know the biblical teaching on what the qualities of a church should be. They simply become convinced that the church can help them as individuals and as families. Second, I do not mean that Mormons are biblical in their practice of these qualities. Their whole understanding of revealed truth is a concept Christians must reject. Furthermore, their motivation in building these qualities into their church life is an attempt to “establish their own righteousness,” having not given themselves to “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). It is a complicated works-righteousness system in which the faithful are always moving up the ladder into a better and better life.

What I do mean when I speak of the reasons for their growth and appeal is that this cult has placed an emphasis on some of the basic biblical principles of life, and people are responding because they find these principles very satisfying. Once people are drawn to the church by these appealing ministries they are open to be drawn into the church and accept its doctrine. This “conversion” takes place when they acknowledge that God is giving continuing revelation to the (Mormon) church through his chosen instruments—their leaders.

Let us look at some of these qualities that bait the Mormon fishhook so well. Do they have any lessons for us?

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1. The Mormons show genuine love and concern by taking care of the needs of their people.

Since the time of the Great Depression the Mormon church has developed a commendable system of care in material things. The program strives to meet needs while at the same time training and involving the needy in areas of usefulness to the extent that they are able to work. There are no able-bodied non-workers in Mormonism. Throughout the world storehouses are filled with food, clothes, and other articles provided by welfare farms, church-owned enterprises, and the hard work of Mormons everywhere.

A need might come to the attention of the church through the Women’s Relief Society, or perhaps a monthly visit made by the church’s “teachers” to each family will reveal a situation of need. Immediately the bishop of the local ward is informed. The bishop can then act to meet the need, perhaps by issuing an order for help that the person in need can present at a storehouse. At all times the needy are treated with respect and dignity, and the assistance they get is first-rate.

A survey of New Testament passages dealing with church finances will reveal that the most basic use of the Lord’s money was to meet the material needs of God’s people (Acts 11:29; 1 Cor. 16:1–3). This is the divine pattern, and yet we have passed over it in our budgets and left the problems to government or charitable agencies. Yet Jesus said that through demonstrations of love the world would understand something about the Incarnation.

2. The Mormons strive to build the family unit.

The family is the basic unit of Mormon life. The father is the head of the home, the priest of the family. Church life is oriented around the family and does not conflict with family activity. Family prayer and Scripture reading, joint family projects, basic courtesies and graces—these good practices are an integral part of Mormonism.

Mormons are admonished that they need not seek Sunday enjoyments outside the family structure. After a busy morning of church activities, the rest of the day is to be reserved for the family. No church activities are scheduled for Monday evenings. This is “Family Home Evening” when family members gather to work, share, and discuss family goals together. The church has published several attractive books to provide a format for the weekly home evening. Other advice for family life is provided as needed when the “teachers” make their monthly call.

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Evangelical churches, by contrast, may tend to fragment the family through the “beehive of activity” syndrome of numerous meetings and events that are rarely evaluated as to effectiveness. Have we like the Pharisees laid aside basic, biblical family responsibilities in the name of “religious service” (Mark 7:9–13)?

3. The Mormons provide for their young people.

Although Mormons think of this as part of their overall family ministries, their youth program is so extensive that it requires separate mention. From their earliest days they have had a strong youth ministry. They were among the first to integrate Scouting into the church. Most wards have a gymnasium and stage as part of their facilities. The church boasts the largest basketball and softball organization in the world. Emphasis is placed on music, drama, the dance, and amateur theatricals. Supplementing the “Family Home Evening” is the “Mutual Improvement Association.” This weekly evening is devoted to wholesome activity for all young people up to age twenty-five.

Furthermore, every Mormon boy looks forward to beginning his progression through the levels of priesthood by becoming a deacon at age twelve. These eager young men are consistently used even in the regular worship services of the church.

As a result, the Mormon young person does not see his church simply as an indoctrination center, a place where he gets a piecemeal understanding of a faith that fails to relate itself to his life. His church ministers to him as a whole person. He sees his faith integrated into all areas of life. Marion D. Hanks, a general authority of the church, says that at the age of twenty-one “at least three-fourths of all Mormon young people are still tightly attached to the church.” And fully a third of the Mormon converts are teen-agers.

We may take exception to some of the Mormons’ concepts of youth involvement, but we still owe serious thought to the success of their multi-faceted ministry to the young person.

4. The Mormon church is a layman’s church.

President N. Eldon Tanner has said, “Our people don’t dodge, alibi, or evade when they are asked to take on a job. We are taught from childhood that a call from the church is a call from God. And when God calls you to a task, you can only say ‘yes’ if you take your faith seriously.”

In any given ward of the church (involving approximately 500 families) there may be as many as 250 jobs for volunteer labor. In fact, the Mormons take lay ministry so seriously that they reject any idea of a paid ministry!

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One key area of lay ministry is the missionary program. Young men and women are encouraged to give the church two years of missionary service, supported fully by personal or family funds. This missionary band, now about 18,000 strong, provides a tremendous opportunity for personal character-building and is also the vanguard of the church’s outreach activity.

Most evangelical churches can be commended for stressing lay involvement, but can we say that we have developed programs on this large a scale requiring such full commitment? Imagine what could happen if sharp teen-agers gave just six months of active missionary service within your local church! The outsider is likely to be much impressed by the serious commitment of so many people to the Mormon church.

5. The Mormons believe that Divine Revelation is the basis for their practices.

I have been impressed with the commitment the faithful Mormon makes to Divine Revelation (though certainly not in the sense that we take the Bible to be the complete and sufficient expression of God’s truth). I was visited one morning by two courteous young men who told me much of what I have related here. Again and again they made it clear that they believed their church’s ongoing vitality was due to obedience to a constant flow of divine guidance. I asked, “What in your church, if anything, do you feel needs to be changed?” When they indicated that no changes were needed, I replied, “Your answer must mean that you believe you have received all the truth, and that you are living up to it fully.” They agreed to this with no hesitation.

One of the great principles of the Protestant Reformation was that the Word of God has the power to validate itself as true and believable. If God’s Word is credible within itself, the Christian need not hesitate to say that Scripture alone is the basis for what he believes and does. In a day when many are hesitant to claim that God has said anything definitive, the Mormons stand out in contrast, and many people are ready to listen to what the Mormons think the voice of God says. It is tragic that their message is false, but it is nonetheless a lesson to us that people are many times ready to hear a voice of authority.

So if your neighbor has just joined the Mormon church, I sorrow with you—particularly because I am quite sure that the appeal the church has for your neighbor was an appeal that should have come just as loud and just as clear from an evangelical church, which then could have given him the true Word of Life.

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