Since the publication Kingdom of the Cults (1965) by Walter Martin (1928-1989; founder of the Bible Answer Man radio program and Christian Research Institute) mainstream Protestant and Evangelical ministries have carried on the counter-cult ministry torch in apologetics. Many have established legacy ministries as a means to witness and share the Gospel message of hope to those whom they deemed are destined to hell by false prophets, teachers, and heresy. Innumerable books, pamphlets, and articles have been published. Today, blogs, podcasts, and even video productions continue to carry on the legacy of the CCM heritage. Local churches in any given community hosted various guest speakers where members of the Latter-day Saint Christian faith were invited to. And since the influence of many of these Christian ministers – many members have abandoned the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have gone on to start their own ministries.
Growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint Christian faith never fully exposed me to some of the arguments and criticisms brought against the Church. One incident I do recall was when my parents took my younger sisters and I into a local bookstore. Asking about some books on the Church, we were directed to a small section of the store. I did not see any of the books myself, however, do recall my parents leaving with us kids right on their heels. My mom was pretty upset.
Another incident really brought me into the early days of my venture into apologetics occurred where I had married a young woman who was baptized into the Church. We were preparing to go into the temple at that time and her parents had invited us over for dinner. Unbeknownst to me, they had invited other guests. After dinner, we sat and the discussion fell onto the topic of Mormonism and the whole time I sat quietly. Not able to give any answer to the questions. The gentleman and his wife were kind and invited me to read a spiral book they had written and published. They were former Latter-day Saints. About a year after this one incident, my young wife had left me and filed for divorce – all because she was convinced by family and friends she needed to leave the Church and me if I was not willing to leave. I was devastated and set out to study all that I could.
I purchased books like (links are connected to affiliate amazon associates – any purchase helps support this website):
- The Gainsayers – Derrick T. Evenson
- The Truth About the Godmakers – Gilbert W. Scharffs
- They Lie in Wait to Deceive (4 Volumes) – Robert L. and Rosemary Brown
- The Greatest Quest (Fiction) – Blaine Yorganson
- New Evidence of Christ in Ancient America – Yorganson
- Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling – Richard Lyman Bushman
- Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism – Richard L. Bushman
- Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism – Dan Vogel
- Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon – Dan Vogel
Much of the early days of LDS Apologetics were based on books published by those who had left the Church and then found their way back, or those who have given over time and energy in studying the history of the Latter-day Saint Faith.
In my own personal life, I faced a crisis of faith that led me out of the Church and attending various Christian denominations. It was through these 15 years that I had absorbed much more information, understanding, and knowledge. Reading The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Arthur W. Pink, Martin Luther Bondage of the Will, studying Calvinism, reading the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers. Acquiring a healthy library of books. It was also around the time that the internet was well under way with message board forums, online chats, and the rise of a new form of apologetics. This gave rise to organizations like FAIRLDS (Faithful Answers and Informed Responses) and other LDS apologetic websites.
Not only had I immersed myself in such studies, I specifically read many of the Anti-Mormon literature still being published (in print and online). After 15 years, I made my way back into the LDS Faith. A vast knowledge of information and engaging in conversations defending the LDS Faith.
Inevitably, I found myself having to shift priorities and focus more on a new career path, family, and being more present. For the past ten or so years I had given myself over to a more spiritual and mindful journey of developing a more intimate and disciplined spiritual life. Focusing more on what it means to live out my faith day by day. Developing awareness of being authentic, and genuine. This personal journey further shaped my own understanding and relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. fully comprehending deeper symbolism within scripture and more insight and wisdom to spiritual truth.
Where rigidity of knowledge had shaped me – a more personal and enriching spiritual quest fueled the desire to further my sense of meaning and purpose in life. Because of this – I have come to fully understand that there is a different way one is able to speak truth in love toward those who may come and criticize our faith.
Yes, we want to give a defense of our faith and the hope the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to each one of us – we also want to share that message of God’s divine purpose: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ. To give an informed answer and response to the many questions, criticisms, and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one is required to answer from the power and authority of scripture, personal revelation, and established teachings where we derive truth and light.
We Are All Called to the Mission Field
There are numerous ways to be a New Witness of the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ to many who are still lost, questioning, doubting, and even experiencing a crisis of faith. What I have come to define as Mindful LDS Christian Apologetics focuses more on:
- The Central Heart and Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – God’s divine Love and purpose for us
- Studying and Understanding those teachings and truths that one may stress over and lack insight
- Speaking in an articulate and mindful way that conveys the power, authority, and love of the Holy Spirit
This idea stems from something that David O. McKay said in a Conference report in 1927 (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay)
If I were to couch in definite terms two of the most potent convictions in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints, I would name: First, an abiding assurance that the gospel, as taught by the Redeemer when he lived among men and which was later modified, changed and corrupted by men, has been restored by the Redeemer in its purity and fulness; and second, following naturally the first, a conviction in the heart of every member of this Church that the responsibility rests upon the membership of the Church to preach the restored gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.
In his BYU Speech, Quentin L. Cook shares some insights:
- Be a missionary for life
- Overcome feelings of hesitancy and inadequacies
- Do not be discouraged because missionary work is hard
- Be a good example and take every opportunity to share the Gospel
And it is difficult to be a missionary and share the message of hope with those who attempt to sway us from the path of righteousness and eternal happiness. It is even more difficult to call those who have left the Church unto reconciliation and invite them back. Yet, it is not impossible and without the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Practical Tips and Recommendations to Invite a Spirit of Love and Compassion
Over the years – the biggest thing I have learned is how far a spirit of love and compassion goes a long way. I used to allow myself to get riled up whenever someone challenged what I believed. It almost became an adrenaline rush that did not seemed to resolve until I felt a smug satisfaction in wielding my knowledge. And is one of the main reasons I found myself getting burned out on apologetics. Here are some of the ways I have started incorporating a more mindful and compassionate approach. However, let us focus on some of the problems that arise in online and in person conversations:
- Contention and debates will never convince someone of anything. They only fuel frustration, anger, bitterness and strife.
- Ineffective discussions involve an aspect of active listening – only to respond where further misunderstandings occur
- Rigid viewpoints that are tunnel vision and black-and-white thinking (irrational thought process) leads to inability to respond and teach in a spirit of love and compassion.
- Engages our primal instinct of fight or flight stress response
Neither of these approaches appear to be inviting of any love and compassion.
Mindfulness and Full Awareness
Natural human behavior responds to any perceived threat where we may feel attacked. It is a natural defense mechanism. Adrenaline kicks in, our body responds in a way as it prepares to flee or engage whatever perceived threat comes. This is the same when we encounter someone ready to convince us of how wrong our faith is, the challenge against Joseph Smith’s claim of being a Prophet in these last days, and the Book of Mormon. Our natural instinct is to stand and defend the faith – or to disengage and flee from the discussion all together.
Mindfulness simply teaches one to be aware of our own internal and external natural response to whenever someone questions our faith or challenges what we believe. Not only being aware, it also helps us stay in a place of calm and humility when responding to another person (or sometimes a group of people). Even if it is an unexpected encounter.
What I have discovered is that by allowing myself to get to a place of calm – I am able to be open and receptive to the promptings of the Spirit. In this manner, one is able to speak with confidence, authority, and in truth and love. Sometimes, we may not have the answers. Yet, we are promised the following:
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.Matthew 10:19, KJV
In the Complete Jewish Study Bible we read the same verse this way:
But when they bring you to trial, do not worry about what to say or how to say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you should say.
According to the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible we find this:
- Not to be solicitous or anxious
- Either in manner to make a defense or what matter it shall consist
Another commentary shares this observation of Matthew 10:19:
Take no thought. That is, be not anxious or unduly solicitous. See Notes on Mat. 6:25. This was a full promise that they should be inspired, and was a most seasonable consolation. Poor, and ignorant, and obscure fishermen would naturally be solicitous what they should say before the great men of the earth. Eastern people regarded kings as raised far above common mortals—as approaching to divinity. How consoling, then, the assurance that God would aid them and speak within them!
Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Matthew & Mark. (R. Frew, Ed.) (p. 112). London: Blackie & Son.
And another shares this insight:
take no thought.—Here we have the same word in the Greek, as in Mat. 6:25, and the meaning is the same, “be not anxious”. We learn from Mark (13:11) that they were not, under such circumstances, even to “premeditate;” and the promise, “It shall be given you, in that same hour, what you shall speak,” saved them from both premeditation and anxiety not you that speak.—Of course, the physical act of speaking was theirs, but it was not theirs to determine how or what they should speak (verse 19). Both the manner and the matter were to be supplied by the Spirit of God. There could not be a more explicit declaration of the complete verbal inspiration of the apostles on such occasions.
McGarvey, J. W. (1875). The New Testament Commentary: Matthew and Mark (Vol. I, p. 91). Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company.
Whenever someone challenges our understanding of the Restored Gospel (or even criticize and attack our faith) we are immediately on trial to answer for the hope that lays within us. Through mindfulness and full awareness – we are able to respond through the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the knowledge one may possess – it is through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit where truth and light is presented against any falsehoods or criticisms being presented.
Speak in a Meaningful and Inviting Manner
The most powerful experiences I have encountered focused on the ability to speak with meaningful purpose and in a manner that is inviting. As mentioned, using mindfulness to bring ourselves into a state of disciplined calmness, we are able to speak with authority, conviction, power, and truth that comes from the Holy Spirit. Since we are to rely on the Spirit to speak through our own understanding and knowledge – we are able to share and minister in a way that forgoes any further need for being defensive. The less defensive we become, the less a person may engage in their approach of perceived attack and criticism.
It also means we are mindful of what we are saying (or typing out in any online forum and discussions). For instance, someone questions the validity of the Book of Mormon as authentic and sacred scripture by attacking it. One may perceive it as a personal attack on them and engage in a defensive approach by using words and phrases like:
- You are wrong
- You don’t know anything
- I don’t think you really read it
Despite any facts or evidence we may bring up to show how the individual may be wrong in their understanding – we are merely fueling contention. Instead, my own personal approach has started to focus more on asking thoughtful questions.
- I am curious how you have come to understand how the Book of Mormon is false.
- What you shared is interesting – I have a different understanding if you are open to hear it?
Asking questions is one way to be meaningful and inviting. Another is to validate what they are saying and paraphrasing so you are able to gauge how you are interpreting what they are saying. This prevents any assumptions on your part. Other suggestions are:
- Do not take what they say personal – even if they appear to make personal attacks against you
- Bring it back to what you understand and what you have researched
- Do not ask yes or no questions – even if rhetorical
- Be clear and concise (think of less is more)
- Be assertive in asking questions and establish a sense of confidence
In one conversation, I made a statement and then asked a question to someone who posted a criticizing comment regarding 2 Nephi 25:23:
I am always hearing people quote 2 Nephi 25:23 and have always been curious if you have taken some time to read the entire chapter of 2 Nephi?
The response was quite positive. My follow up question was this: Are you willing to be open and receptive in reading 2 Nephi 25 and take some notes and then share with me what you discovered? I’ve taken time to study and read that section and may have a different viewpoint if you are willing to discuss this.
The response came across as encouraging. However, have not seen any further communication from the individual.
Stay Rooted in the Scriptures
One of the best strategies is to stay rooted in the Scriptures. This is the importance of daily scripture study. Whether it is personal scripture study or with family and/or friends – we are to root ourselves in what scripture teaches us.
Much of what I have come to fully appreciate and understand about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is by meditating upon what scripture says. Seeking through thoughtful prayer. Relying on the teachings of the Leaders of the Church and actively participating in growing in scriptural knowledge and truth. This also helps when we engage in discussions where people bring up particular passages of scripture that appear to challenge the LDS Christian Faith.
My approach is to come from what I personally have studied and share that in the discussion. For instance, I used to post a comment stating that a person’s interpretation of Galatians 1:6-9 is wrong and then post a link to an article I published concerning Paul’s Other Gospel. Now, I offer the following: “I actually took some time to study Galatians 1:6-9 and came to a different understanding of what Paul was saying. Are you interested in hearing what I’ve discovered?”
Asking a question, bringing it back to myself, and then inviting the person to be open and receptive to discussing what I have studied. Sometimes they are open and receptive. Other times they are not. If not, I no longer push the issue.
In David A. Bednar’s January 6th, 1998 Devotional, he cites three important truths of personal scripture study:
- Helps us understand and maintain covenants we made with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
- Helps us gain insight and direction in how to live out our faith and lives through Christ
- Helps us gain personal revelation in wisdom and understanding of God’s truth and purpose for our well-being
Bednar expounds upon certain principles of consistent and diligent scripture study:
- Pray for understanding and invite the Holy Spirit
- Work with diligence in studying the scriptures
- Consistent spiritual discipline of scripture study
- Ponder and Meditate on the scriptures
- Identify patterns, connections, and parallels within the scriptures
- Write down your own personal thoughts, feelings, and reflections
Through this spiritual discipline and process – we are able to come to know and hear the voice of God. By which we are able to stand and not be anxious for what we are speak or how to speak when called upon.
Such a spiritual discipline also helps us understand and come to know the truth of God’s love for us, the truth of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how to grow in spirit and truth because of Christ’s infinite atonement.
Please consider leaving a comment in the section below and share your thoughts on this article. How does this help you engage in missionary work and responding to any criticism against the LDS faith? What are some of your challenges? Where do you feel you lack adequacy in responding to criticisms against the Church?