This is a Christian blog with biblically-themed articles. It also includes respectful articles on the errors of Mormonism. If you would like to be automatically notified each time a new article is posted (once a month), please contact me at email@example.com (NEW EMAIL ADDRESS).
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My guest writer this month is Joel B. Groat, Director of Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research. Fluent in English and Spanish, he speaks throughout North, Central, and South America as well as in Spain, Hungary and Madagascar. He has also been a featured guest on various radio and television programs.
If you have any questions for Mr. Groat, please contact him at the email address at the end of the article, firstname.lastname@example.org.
RESPONDING TO THE LDS (MORMON) CULTURE OF DECEPTION IN LATIN AMERICA
By Joel B Groat
Director of Ministries – IRR.org
The first time an LDS leader lied to me, I didn’t know it was happening. I was at a Mormon temple opening in Mexico, and after taking the temple tour a small group of us were standing around talking—a mix of visitors, both LDS and non-LDS, and a leader in his traditional dark suit. When we asked him about the Mormon teaching about God—that God was once a man like us who had to progress to Godhood—he immediately denied it. I was surprised; since it was something I’d seen documented in numerous LDS sources. So I asked him if he was sure, and quoted from memory the best I could what Joseph Smith taught. This he also denied, saying it was not LDS Church teaching. Without the source I really couldn’t argue further, but I did wonder if it was possible a leader in Latin America might not know about something so basic to LDS doctrine.
Fast forward six to eight months. Different country in Latin America, very similar scenario. This time there were several LDS leaders in a group of maybe eight to ten people. When they asked what those of us who were non-Mormons found objectionable about the LDS church I brought up the LDS teaching that according to Joseph Smith, God had not always been God, but was once a man like us. That Joseph had taught this doctrine they immediately and strongly denied. I once again cited the quote from Joseph Smith affirming that God had not always been God, but at one time had been a man like us. This was met with stronger denials and accusations of me repeating anti-Mormon falsehoods. Once again I was not sure if they truly didn’t know this information, so I pulled out my copy of Enseñanzas del Profeta José Smith (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith) and turned to page 427. However, as soon as I started reading, what they had been denying so strongly, they now began affirming. I must admit I was a bit stunned. Their denial of the doctrine was a lie.
It was my first encounter with what I call a Mormon culture of deception. After over 25 years of ministry to and engagement with LDS people around the world, I can say such deception is indeed a significant part of the LDS culture.
Defending with Deception
Within a Latin American context it takes two forms. The first is what I’ve now experienced repeatedly from LDS people at lots of different levels of authority. A Mormon will deny, downplay, or disguise certain official LDS teachings or points of history he knows are true, in order to protect the image of the LDS church or its leaders. Mormons themselves refer to it as “lying for the Lord,” and though it has not been officially taught as a doctrine or practice, it is acknowledged by both lay leaders and even apostles (do a Google search on the phrase ‘lying for the Lord’ for a number of articles and video presentation that document the concept and practice).
Perhaps one of the most blatant examples was when LDS General Authority Enrique Falabella misled a media correspondent during a TV interview (video is in Spanish). When Elder Falabellawas asked if the Mormons don’t engage in some strange and un-Christian secret practices in their temples, he made the “sacred not secret” distinction and then stated that during their open houses the Mormon Church tells all about what happens in the temple. It was a bold deception and flatly contradicted LDS Apostle Boyd Packer, who wrote in his booklet The Holy Temple (p. 2) that the LDS Church does not reveal what happens in the temple to outsiders and LDS members are to keep such things “confidential.”
Deception of a Different Kind
However, a different and to me more troubling facet of the LDS culture of deception is evidence that indicates that LDS leaders are misleading their own people in Latin America when it comes to certain troubling historical facts. Several months ago I was in Honduras doing a series of teaching and training conferences for Christian pastors and leaders. I also attended the Mormon temple open house and took the tour a couple of times and used the opportunity to talk to Hispanic members of the LDS church. My goal was not to argue or debate, and in fact the conversations were generally quite amiable. I’m fluent in Spanish and enjoy the Hispanic culture and am very at home in it since I spent my junior and senior high years in Latin American countries with my parents who were evangelical missionaries. But as I talked with different LDS people, especially converts, I discovered a disturbing trend. When I would raise issues that questioned the prophetic integrity of early leaders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, I noticed two things. First, these Mormons claimed to already know information like the fact that Joseph Smith used a seer stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon (see our articles on this subject in English, “Translation or Divination,”and Spanish, “Traducción o Adivinación) or that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had multiple wives. Second, they claimed they also knew this information was false and made up by anti-Mormons. When I asked how they knew that, they said this is what they had been taught. One Hispanic woman went so far as to say she knew Brigham Young had many wives, but he never slept with any of them or had children with them—they were just widows or older women he took in so he could help take care of them.
I had no reason to doubt this woman’s sincerity, or that of other kind and dedicated LDS people with whom I spoke. However, if they were not lying to me, then someone has been lying to them. It underscores the lengths to which LDS leaders will go to protect the image of the LDS Church from even their own members in Latin American countries. This is a new level of deception from anything I’ve experienced in 15 years of discernment ministry in Latin America, since it involves someone at a level of influence giving LDS members pieces of historically accurate information, but then teaching those same members that the information is false.
Compassionate Care Required
Since my goal was not to argue, I simply encouraged the woman to continue to investigate and at least planted the seed that she was being misled. I explained that the facts she thought were false were actually common knowledge, even among LDS people in the United States, and gave her my card with our website hoping she someday checks things out for herself. This encounter underscored the need for a compassionate, patient, and caring response to LDS people, especially those outside the United States who may not have access to the documentation so readily available in English. Such people do not need to be harangued or put down or ridiculed for what they have been taught. If our response is harsh, argumentative, or demeaning we diminish our effectiveness to nil.
People need to see our hearts motivated by a love for them and a love for the truth. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 says we are to not quarrel, but to be kind to everyone. It is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance, and our kindness and gentleness may make more of an impact than the factual information we present. A close friend once said that beyond what we say or even what we do, people will remember how we made them feel. Do those we encounter feel cared for and respected, even when they know we disagree or are concerned about stuff they’ve been taught? As my friend and pastor Louie Konopka has stated often, “It’s a sad thing to be right, only.” We need to share the truth, for it is only truth that can set people free; but a heart of compassion will not employ truth in a spiritual mission to search and destroy but to rescue and restore.
Joel B. Groat, Director of Ministries for the Institute of Religious Research, is available to speak in either Spanish or English and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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