Afraid of the dark

Did you know that the most common command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”? Personally, I think we need to be reminded of it so often because when we’re living in fear, we’re not putting our full trust in God.

Recently, though, I’ve been learning that fear is one of the biggest roadblocks to evangelism. First of all, Christians are often petrified of being open about our faith! I used to clam up about it — I didn’t even mention it when I was outside of Christian circles. I guess we fear rejection from others, and we want to keep up some kind of “normal” reputation. We don’t want to seem weird, and God forbid they consider us judgmental. So we just keep quiet, selfishly hiding our lights under a bushel while unbelievers live their lives desperately seeking for something meaningful. Our fears hold us back from living out the Great Commission — we need to abandon it and surrender to God’s will.

And then there’s the problem of fear in those who receive our message. When we actually do evangelize, the people hearing the gospel for the first time might freak out. They have a certain worldview and deeply held beliefs — that doesn’t change in an instant. It can be an absolutely terrifying experience to have your deepest convictions shaken to the core, and this is especially applicable when we evangelize to people of other religious backgrounds. Different people will respond to the same message in diverse ways, which is why we absolutely must understand our audience. We should always speak the truth in love and communicate it in a way that relates to the person’s background, beliefs, and experiences.

I’ve found that Mormons respond very well to evangelism. They stay calm, they don’t lash out in anger, and they’re not afraid to humbly admit when they don’t know the answer. In some ways, they seem like the model audience. Debating with them and preaching the gospel to them is just such a joy. On the other hand, they’re so agreeable that they take everything you throw at them, every criticism you make of their religion, every Bible verse you use to support orthodox Christian doctrine… then they smile, nod, and agree to disagree. You’re left incredulous. You’ve just proven their religion to be false several times over and that’s not even all the dirt you’ve got on it… but they successfully manage to keep two opposing beliefs in their minds at once. You wonder, “Why can’t I get through to them?”

There’s a perfectly good reason for that: the first rule of Mormonism is “Don’t ask too many questions.”

Mormons have to be content with incomplete knowledge. If they start asking questions, they’ll start seeking answers, and you can better believe the LDS church isn’t prepared to provide them. If they start looking outside the church for answers, they might actually find them… and then they might leave the church.

But that’s not all. There’s also the doctrine of Outer Darkness.

That doesn’t sound too nice, does it?

LDS doctrine identifies several different levels of heaven. The celestial kingdom is where Mormons go if they’re good enough. The terrestrial kingdom is for good people who weren’t Mormons. The telestial kingdom is for the bad people who weren’t Mormons, but it isn’t as bad as hell (it’s more like a neutral, earthly place).

And who do you think goes to Outer Darkness?

Check out that line in the chart which says “apostasy.” Apostates were people who were on their way to celestial glory — they were good Mormons, on track to become gods. But for whatever reason, they left the LDS church. Maybe they abandoned religion altogether, maybe they became Christian. It doesn’t matter. They’re going to the lowest level.

This is supported in LDS scripture. As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants 76:31–38,

Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power —
They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born;
For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity;
Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come —
Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame.
These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels —
And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;
Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.

As we can see, the people who go to hell in Mormonism are those who denied the Holy Spirit after receiving him. Mormons believe they receive the Holy Spirit when they are baptized — the LDS website states, “All who seek eternal life must follow the example of the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The website also says, “A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost.” So it’s quite clear: any Mormon who has been baptized and has a testimony will go to the Outer Darkness if they leave the church.

Look at that chart again. The telestial kingdom will be full of liars, adulterers, murderers, rapists, and thieves. Ex-Mormons are seen as worse than all of those! It doesn’t matter if they lived the rest of their life serving the poor, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and loving others with every fibre of their being. They will still be punished far more harshly than the worst criminals.

Who wouldn’t be afraid of that? How can I blame the Mormons for being too scared to ask the tough questions? My heart goes out to them! The curious Mormon is stuck between a rock and a dreadfully hard place — it becomes increasingly difficult to “just believe” but they must carry on and shove aside the questions for which the LDS church has no answers. These wonderful people, so sweet and sincere, are trapped in ignorance because they are afraid of the dark.

Praise God that he revealed himself in his Word! 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Mormons are afraid to question their faith because they fear the punishment of Outer Darkness. It all comes back to the cross, of course. Mormons believe we are saved by grace after all we can do. They don’t put up crosses on their temples or wear the cross around their necks. Yet the cross symbolizes the greatest act of love the world has ever seen, because Jesus died for sinners before all we can do, before we can do anything! Mormons don’t know who God is so they don’t experience the fullness of his love — but when we understand the infinite extent to which God loves us, all fear is gone. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Joseph Smith has no power or authority over anyone’s salvation. The LDS church, its prophets, apostles, and bishops have no power over anyone’s salvation. No church on earth is the “One True Church,” there is no man-made institution that can save. Hell is real, but those who have been born again in Christ don’t need to fear it. We can seek God with great confidence, believing his revealed Word and trusting that he will lead us into a deeper relationship with him, one that simply isn’t found within the heterodoxy of the LDS church.

Christians need to be prepared in our evangelism to understand that our audience is afraid. We need to walk a mile in their shoes so we can respond appropriately. But most importantly, we need to shine our light so that everyone can see it.

Mormons, listen to the most common command in the Bible. Don’t be afraid of the dark — step into the light.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.