I. What is Mormonism?
According to mormon.org, an official Mormon website of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints states the following:
“What is Mormonism? OR What do Mormons believe? When Jesus Christ lived on the earth, He organized His Church so that all people could receive His gospel and return one day to live with God, our Heavenly Father. After Jesus Christ died, was resurrected and ascended to heaven, His Apostles continued to receive revelation from Him through the Holy Ghost on how to direct the work of His Church. However, after they were killed, members changed the teachings of the Church that He had established. While many good people and some truth remained, this Apostasy, or general falling away from the truth, brought about the withdrawal of the Church from the earth (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; Acts 20:29-30). The Apostle Peter prophesied that Jesus would restore His Church before His Second Coming (Acts 3:19-21). Jesus Christ began to restore His Church in its fulness to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1820. It has grown to become a worldwide Church with over 13 million members. It has the same teachings and basic organization as the Church established by Jesus in New Testament times.” (link)
In short, Mormonism teaches that the church of Jesus Christ was lost completely with the death of the apostles in the first century, and from there a full apostasy of the faith took place. Mormons also believe that the priesthood authority (Mormonism’s view that only certain people have the right and calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ) was no longer on the earth, and because of that there was a need for a latter day prophet to be called of God to bring about the restoration of the true church on earth.
According to official Latter-Day Saints teachings Joseph Smith was called by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in 1820 to be the restored prophet to restore the true gospel and church back on earth. The following information is from lds.org which is an official website of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints:
“The following outline summarizes a few of the important events in the restoration of the gospel and the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the Lord has declared is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30).
Early spring, 1820. Seeking the true Church of Jesus Christ, 14-year-old Joseph Smith prayed in a grove of trees near his home in Palmyra, New York. In answer to his humble prayer, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ visited him and told him that he must not join any of the churches on the earth at that time. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:11–19.) In the Church we refer to this experience as Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
September 21–22, 1823. Joseph Smith was visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni prophesied of coming events and told Joseph of the Book of Mormon record, written on plates of gold. The angel allowed Joseph to see the gold plates, which were buried in the nearby Hill Cumorah. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:27–53.)
September 22, 1827. Joseph Smith received the gold plates from Moroni at the Hill Cumorah after having met with Moroni on 22 September of each of the previous four years. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:53, 59.)
May 15, 1829. Having read about baptism for the remission of sins as they worked on the translation of the gold plates, Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery went to a secluded area to inquire of the Lord concerning the matter. There, on the banks of the Susquehanna River near Harmony, Pennsylvania, they received the answer to their prayer. John the Baptist, a resurrected being, came to them as “a messenger from heaven . . . in a cloud of light.” He conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood. Then, in obedience to his instructions, Joseph and Oliver baptized each other and ordained each other to the Aaronic Priesthood. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72; see also D&C 13.)
May 1829. The ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. (See D&C 128:20.)
June 1829. Guided “by the gift and power of God” (D&C 135:3), the Prophet Joseph Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon.
March 26, 1830. The first printed copies of the Book of Mormon became available in Palmyra, New York.
April 6, 1830. The Church was organized in Fayette Township, New York, beginning with six members.” (link)
II. Who are Mormon Missionaries and what they do they teach?
Mormon Missionaries are young men and women whom teach people a series of 5 lessons concerning the Mormon Church and their beliefs concerning Joseph Smith being the restored prophet. Read the following from their official Missionary handbook called “Preach My Gospel” concerning what they are to teach investigators (potential non Mormon converts):
“No matter where you serve or whom you teach, center your teaching on the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The Lord will bless you as you teach the message of the Restoration to a world that desperately needs the gospel of Jesus Christ” (“Statement on Missionary Work,” First Presidency letter, 11 Dec. 2002). As you study the doctrines in the missionary lessons, you will come to see that we have one message: Through a modern prophet, God has restored knowledge about the plan of salvation, which is centered on Christ’s Atonement and fulfilled by living the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
Make sure that everyone you teach clearly understands the following:
- God is our literal Father in Heaven. He loves us. Every person on earth is a child of God and a member of God’s family. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our Savior and Redeemer.
- Our loving Father in Heaven reached out to His children throughout biblical history by revealing His gospel to prophets. Sadly, many people rejected that gospel; even some of those who accepted it changed gospel doctrines and ordinances and fell into unbelief and apostasy.
- Our Father in Heaven sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. He performed miracles and taught His gospel. He accomplished the Atonement and was resurrected.•
- Beginning with the First Vision, God has again reached out in love to His children. He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ and His priesthood authority and organized His Church on the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of this Restoration.
As you help investigators see the pattern of apostasy and restoration, they will be prepared to understand the great need for the latter-day Restoration. They will see the need to accept the restored gospel, receive the ordinances of salvation by the authority of the restored priesthood, and follow the way to eternal life. Help people recognize that the Church is not just another religion, nor is it an American church. Rather, it is a restoration of the “fulness of [the] gospel” (D&C 1:23), the same as was revealed and taught from the beginning.” (link)
III. Some key things to be informed on when witnessing to Mormon Missionaries
• Knowing Official Teachings and Beliefs (books, articles, websites, resources)
• The Standard Works – official sources for Mormon doctrine (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, 14 Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith History & Testimony)
• Knowing Key Leaders in the Mormon Church and their teachings (prophets such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc.)
• Knowing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Bible (Luke 24:44-47, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 1:6-9, Jude 1:3) in comparison to false gospels
When witnessing to Mormon Missionaries or Mormons in general I recommend having a clear understanding of what they believe and why they believe it. I encourage you to pray for them, praying for having wisdom in what to share with them, and that your focus is on the true gospel of Jesus Christ in comparison to the Mormon gospel. If I can help with anything please let me know.