The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Informed Decision about Mormonism

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?

Friend: Yes.

Priest: The Catholic Church at one time prostituted its nuns for money. Can you handle belonging to a church with that in its history?

Friend: Yes.

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 baptized.

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.

 


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If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board (here are some recommendations). If you'd like to contact me with comments or feedback, you may send an email to analytics@lds4u.com.