|How much study is required to make
an informed decision about Mormonism?
When religions seek new
converts, they have a choice regarding how much education they require the
candidate to receive before they are deemed ready to make a commitment to
the church. The Catholic Church, for example, insists that any potential
convert be thoroughly educated in Catholicism before he or she is allowed
to be baptized. This education includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. A
friend of mine converted from being a Protestant to a Catholic. He said
that he had to meet with a priest several times a week over a 9 month
period before they would allow him to be baptized. He told me that several
of their discussions went like this:
Priest: In the past, the Catholic Church murdered many of its
dissidents. Can you handle belonging to a church with that in its history?
Priest: The Catholic Church at one time prostituted its nuns for
money. Can you handle belonging to a church with that in its history?
My friend told me the priest went on and on, candidly bringing up every
spec of dirt on that church with which he was aware.
Some Christian churches take the opposite approach. After presenting
non-members with only one sermon, they will invite the candidate to accept
Jesus, be baptized, and join the church on the spot.
The LDS church takes a minimalist approach (but certainly not to the
extreme that some Christian churches do). The Mormon missionaries teach
prospective converts a series of 6 short lessons that outline the basic
beliefs of the church and the basic standards and commitments that Mormons
are expected to live. After listening to these lessons and agreeing to
live the standards and commitments taught in them, the Church considers
the candidate ready to covenant with God and join the church.
There are certainly advantages to this minimalist approach. Some people
believe the basic discussions do in fact teach a convert everything that
is relevant, and insisting that they learn more is at best a waste of time
and at worst a confusion of the fundamental issue at question. It could be
argued that a more thorough set of lessons would discriminate against
people who don't have the time, inclination, or resources to investigate
the church deeply. If you are convinced that your eternal salvation might
be at risk, perhaps the strategy of "get saved first, ask questions later"
is the most logical approach. After all, the time to learn about the
Church could be unexpectedly cut short by an untimely death or, according
to the belief of some, Jesus descending from the sky in the Second Coming.
There is certainly biblical precedence for baptizing people who haven't
taken time to study the religion in depth.
However, many converts who join the LDS Church based on the minimum
information provided in the discussions later regret it. They resent the
Church for baptizing them without providing information that they believe
is pertinent. For example, a friend of mine taught the discussions to an
African American who enthusiastically received everything they told him.
In a visit a couple of days before his baptism date, he was laughing and
told the missionaries, "My brother told me the most hysterical anti-Mormon
lie you've ever heard! He told me that the Mormon Church discriminated
against blacks until 1978! Isn't that hilarious! Where do they come up
with this stuff!" When he saw the missionaries became tense, serious and
silent rather than laughing, his laugher turned into grimness and he asked
them point-blank if that was true. They told him it was true; blacks
weren't allowed to hold the priesthood or participate in temple ordinances
until 1978. The investigator became furious and piercingly asked, "And
when were you going to tell me this?" The answer was that they weren't
going to tell him--that bit of information isn't in the discussions and
the missionaries weren't going to bring it up for fear of it dissuading
the investigator from joining the church.
Don't misunderstand me--I'm not accusing Mormons or the contemporary
LDS church of being racist. When I was attending Utah State University in
1988, a graduate student from West Africa joined the church. I have never
seen a group of Mormons welcome a new member as enthusiastically as the
students in that ward welcomed him. Without doubt, the vast majority of
Mormons are thrilled to no longer be burdened with racist doctrine, and
they probably wish they were no longer burdened with the mem ory of it.
They probably want to forget that it ever happened. So Iím not saying that
Mormons are racist. What I am saying is that people with black skin have
the right to be informed of the Church's history of racism before they are
Letís get back to the original question. How much study is required to
make an informed decision regarding Mormonism? Honestly, I donít know the
answer to that. I suppose we each have to decide for ourselves if we have
enough information to be really confident that we are making the right
decision. As you take the discussions, the missionaries will do everything
in their power to sooth you into feeling that they are telling you
everything that you need to know. They will promise that if you do
everything they ask you to, they will lead you down the paths that God
wants you to take. If God unequivocally tells you that the missionaries
are telling you the whole truth, then I suppose that is your answer. But
if you feel a trace of doubt about the truthfulness of their claims,
perhaps that is God (or your brain) telling you that you should look into
it a little deeper.
This site is designed to provide a starting point to deeper
investigations. Our motto is the truth seekerís motto, question
everything. You will find more questions here than answers. As you
ponder and investigate the questions raised and gain any insights that you
believe are beneficial, I hope you come back and share your insights with
usóyour fellow searchers.