So, The Missionaries Called…
So, I got a call from the LDS missionaries. Normally, I wouldn’t have picked up the phone, but I had just walked in the door and answered it without looking at the caller ID. For what I initially thought would be a quick, “please don’t call again”, turned into a 15 minute theological discussion. I’m quite impressed that he was so willing to answer my questions, considering that I’m not an ‘investigator’ and am an official apostate. Rather than summarizing, I will attempt to recount the conversation as best I can:
Missionary: Hi. This is Elder _______ from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we were wondering when a good time would be for us to come by and share a message with you?
Me: Sorry, did you say Mormon Missionaries? [I didn't quite catch what he said at first, since I was bringing in groceries]
Me: You see, I specifically asked for the Church not to contact me when I sent in my official resignation, and yet, here you are calling me.
Missionary: Oh, I’m sorry. We’re from the Spanish mission, and sometimes we don’t get the same information from our English counterparts.
Me: Oh, I see. Well please take me off of your call list.
Missionary: Oh, okay sir, but I just wanted to tell you that I know the Church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God…
Me: Wait. [cutting him off] If the Book of Mormon is true, wouldn’t it make sense that facts discovered outside of the Church would align with that truth?
Missionary: Uh, yeah, I suppose.
Me: Then why is it that the Book of Mormon talks about steel being used in ancient America long before steel was even invented? Or how about dragons? They’ve never existed!
Missionary: Well, I’m not a historian, so I can’t speak to that. What I do know is that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, who died for us so that we can be forgiven and return to live with him.
Me: Really? Why did he have to die for us to be forgiven? Could’t God have been able to forgive us without having to sacrifice his son?
Missionary: Well… it’s all part of God’s plan.
Me: Sure, but I could forgive someone without having to kill someone else. Why couldn’t God simply forgive without having to let Jesus die?
Missionary: Someone had to pay for our sins. It would be unjust if someone didn’t pay the price.
Me: Unjust? If you stole from me, I could forgive you without needing retribution. I’d just have to accept that I no longer have that money any more and let it go.
Missionary: Well, that’s very nice of you. However, we are commanded to forgive since it’s not our job to judge.
Me: Do you believe that God’s commandments are timeless?
Missionary: Well, yes.
Me: Then why is it that the Church has had prophets who have completely contradicted each other?
Missionary: Well I don’t know about that, but the beauty of having a prophet and modern revelation is that we are continually given instruction that’s relevant to our time.
Me: You believe that Brigham Young was a prophet, and everything he said in that capacity is God’s will and word – otherwise he would have been removed from that position – right?
Missionary: Well, yes. I do believe that Brigham Young was a prophet of God…
Me: Then how come he said that Polygamy was essential to gain Celestial glory, and would forever be so. Yet a few years later, Wilford Woodruff released the Manifesto of 1890 (aka Official Declaration 1), abolishing it? And even President Hinckley said, in an interview with Larry King, that he doesn’t think it was even doctrinal, yet it’s clearly written in D&C 132!
Missionary: What’s with your fixation on polygamy? [I think I may have mentioned it earlier somewhere, but I can't quite remember when]
Me: It’s not polygamy that I’m focused on, it the changing doctrine and the clear contradictions from one prophet to another. Polygamy is just an example of that. [admittedly, I just finished reading yet another book about early Mormon polygamy, so it was on my mind]
Missionary: Well, modern revelation allows for us to receive guidance for our day and age, and what needs to be done now.
Me: OK, then why hasn’t there been any new revelations in decades?
Missionary: well, there has been. Every General Conference…
Me: No, I mean a revelation, as in “thus saith the Lord” and canonized scripture. There are plenty of modern day issues that could really use a revelation, such as homosexuality.
Missionary: Well, we already know that homosexuality is wrong from the scriptures…
Me: The scriptures don’t say that directly. A revelation would help to clarify it so there was no longer any confusion around whether it’s the sexual act or the general attraction that’s sinful. [not to mention the eternal consequences surrounding the issue]
Missionary: Well, I don’t know why there hasn’t been, but I do know that we can find the answers to all our problems by reading the Book of Mormon and praying, and He will answer our prayers.
Me: And what if He doesn’t?
Missionary: What do you mean?
Me: What if you pray about the Book of Mormon and don’t get an answer?
Missionary: We’re promised that if we pray with real intent, we will always receive an answer. When’s the last time you’ve read the Book of Mormon?
Me: I’m actually reading it right now. [admittedly, I'm not currently reading it from cover to cover, but reading from it often enough] Plus, I grew up in the Church, attended all my meetings, youth activities, and seminary. I’ve prayed with real intent, numerous times. I’ve never received an answer.
Missionary: Well, I’m not sure what your life is like, or why you haven’t received an answer, [this is a common Mormon defence: suggesting that I'm not 'good enough' or have 'done enough' to be worthy of an answer from God] but I have prayed about it, and have felt my prayers being answered. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. [suggesting that he is somehow superior to me]
Me: How do you “know” that?
Missionary: …What do you mean?
Me: How do you “know” that the Book of Mormon is true with only a feeling to guide you?
Missionary: Well, I prayed about it, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, I received confirmation of the truthfulness of His gospel.
Me: OK, but how do you ‘know’ that it was the Holy Ghost telling you that, and not simply your own mind making you feel something that you wanted to feel?
Missionary: Because I felt something that was not of my own thoughts.
Me: But how do you ‘know’ that with just a feeling? You can’t simply ‘know’ something is true by a feeling without having some kind of evidence to support it. I can’t ‘know’ that the moon landing happened just by how I feel about it….
Missionary: I do know, because the Book of Mormon tells us that if we pray about it, we will feel peace and happiness.
Me: You’re not suggesting that those feelings are exclusive to the Holy Ghost, and unavailable to anyone else, are you?
Missionary: Well… no. Everyone can feel that way, but…
Me: Have you ever read the Quran?
Missionary: …no, and I’m not sure I see the relevance.
Me: If you haven’t read the Quran, how do you know that it isn’t true?
Missionary: Because I know through prayer that the Book of Mormon is true.
Me: Then how come millions of Muslims have prayed about the truthfulness of the Quran, and claim to have received the same confirmation that their book is true?
Missionary: I’m not sure, but people can convince themselves into believing many things, or that they’ve received an answer to a prayer when they really haven’t.
Me: Exactly! So how do you know that you aren’t one of them?
Missionary: Because I’ve felt confirmation by the Holy Ghost. [obviously my point is not sinking in, or he doesn't have an answer]
Me: And how do you know that it was the Holy Ghost and not your own mind?
Missionary: Well sir, I feel like I’ve already answered that, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record… so I think I should let you go.
Me: Well, I don’t think you have, but alright.
Missionary: I wish you the best of luck in your life. Goodbye.
This was the first theological discussion I’ve been able to have with an active member since I resigned 6 months ago. I really am impressed that he stayed on the line with me for as long as he did. Ultimately, it seems to me that I had him backed against a wall from which he didn’t know how to get away. I managed to get him to admit that people can make themselves feel & believe in things which aren’t true, but he never did answer my question as to how he knows that he’s not one of them. As for the clear contradictions in prophetic doctrine, or why a god would need to have his son killed in order to be able to forgive his other children, the missionary had nothing to say beyond the obviously scripted responses: “pray about it”, “read the Book of Mormon”, and “I just know”.
Although I would prefer the Church to cease further contact, as I have requested, I do look forward to the next encounter. I will be sure to use every opportunity they provide to continue to refine my debating skills, and with any luck, encourage others to think for themselves about the inherent problems in the Church.