Have you ever been asked a question about being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but you weren't quite sure how to answer it? Check out a few of the most commonly asked questions, and read some scripture-based answers that you can use the next time you're asked one of them.
Question #1: Are you Christian?
The short answer: “Yes, absolutely. I believe in God the Father, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I believe that Jesus is my personal Savior, as well as the Savior of the whole earth, and that it is only through His grace that we are able to return to live with Him in heaven.”
The essential points you will want to make are:
1.While we don't believe in the Holy Trinity as a three-in-one being, we believe in the Godhead—God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as three separate beings, with the first two having bodies.
2.You have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
3.You recognize Christ as the Savior of all mankind.
4.You fully understand that it is only through the grace (Atonement) of Jesus Christ that we are able to progress in the next life.
Anything less than these four points will leave you vulnerable to criticism that Latter-day Saints are not Christian. But the good news is that all four of these doctrines are fully embraced by the Church.
Usually we will want to demonstrate our support of gospel truths with scriptures from the Holy Bible, but, in this case, our best support comes from latter-day scriptures as we make our case for our basic Christianity and that the Book of Mormon is truly a second witness of Jesus Christ.
2 Nephi 25:26 We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ . . .
Moroni 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ . . . then is his grace sufficient for you . . .
2 Nephi 33:6 I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell . . .
Doctrine and Covenants 76:22 This is the testimony . . . that we give of him: That he lives!
Question #2: What makes your church different?
As it turns out, I’ve been asked this question more often than any other. It is, of course, completely open-ended. The problem is that open-ended questions can lead us into some very long and windy answers, which will likely not be a blessing to the one on the receiving end of our rambling discourse.
But here’s an idea: When I’m asked this question, I change it. After all, as we attempt to convince the world that we are, in fact, Christians, why answer this question by immediately talking about our differences? Why not talk about our similarities—which your friend will probably find equally interesting and possibly surprising.
The short answer: “Well, first of all, even though we do have some differences, we have way more things in common than you might guess. We believe in God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I believe that Jesus is my personal Savior as well as the Savior of the whole earth and that it is only through His grace that we are able to return to live with Him in heaven.
“But we do have some differences. One of them is the Book of Mormon. It’s a book that we believe to be additional scripture that testifies, just like the Holy Bible, that Jesus is the Christ. Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?”
Okay, that’s a little longer, but you can see the direction. First, quickly emphasize what we have in common. Then mention a single difference (such as the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, temples, living prophets, continuing revelation, etc.) and see where the conversation goes. Prime it by asking a question of your own, as in the example above.
For our commonality with other Christians, see the scripture support list for Question #1. To support the Book of Mormon with references from the Holy Bible see:
Ezekiel 37:16 The stick of Joseph, the stick of Judah . . .
John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold . . .
Question #3: What do you believe about Jesus?
One of the criticisms of the Church is “Well, they say they believe in Jesus, but it’s not the Jesus that I know,” and then they focus on perceived differences between how Latter-day Saints understand Christ versus a more traditional Protestant view of Him. While we do have some doctrinal differences with mainline Christian churches (for example, we believe that Christ is our literal elder brother, separate from the Father, and possesses a tangible body), there is much more that unites us with other churches than divides us. It is not dishonest to stress our commonality rather than our differences. We don’t hide our differences, but we don’t need to beat people over the head with them.
The short answer: “We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and is the Son of God the Father. We believe that Christ came to earth to pay the price for our sins. We believe that while He was on the earth, He organized His church, was crucified, and arose on the third day. We believe He lives today, that He has restored His Church, and that one day He will return in power and glory to the earth.”
The point: Even as we are emphasizing how we agree on the Savior and His role in the salvation of the human race, we are still planting seeds—that He organized a specific church and restored it in the latter days and that He will return again to claim His Church and people.
Isaiah 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs . . . he was wounded for our transgressions
Matthew 16:15–19 Jesus: Whom say ye that I am? Peter: Thou art the Christ . . .
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life . . .
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son . . .
Acts 1:11 This same Jesus . . . shall come (again) in like manner as ye have seen . . .
Question #4: Why do you say that you “know” the gospel is true? Don’t you really just believe it?
This question will most likely come from someone without a scriptural or religious background. To the unbeliever or skeptic, the idea that you can “know” anything pertaining to God is illogical at best, an exercise in self-delusion at worst. They will concede that you have faith in something or believe it to be true (most likely, in their view, in the absence of hard evidence), but the idea that you know that God lives in the same way you know the sun will come up tomorrow morning may be greeted by some with dismissal or scorn.
Nevertheless, if you are asked the question, it is your privilege to respond. If your testimony is met with disbelief, you can take heart in these words from Elder Holland:
"To [you], I say, dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped into a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, “view[ed Christ’s] death, and suffer[ed] his cross and [borne] the shame of the world.”
So if the question comes, explain with all the courage and courtesy you can muster how you (and we and he) can know the truths of the gospel for ourselves.
The short answer: “I admit that sounds like a bold statement. I can only say that I have prayed to God to know if He lives and if the gospel is true, and in response He filled both my mind and heart with a burst of knowledge unlike anything I have ever experienced before. And He continues to bless me from time to time with this kind of knowledge. To say anything less than ‘I know that God lives’ would be to dishonor Him and the sacred experiences I have shared with Him and continue to share with Him. And there are millions of others who have had the same experience. Could I share a scripture verse with you that helped me understand how this works?”
The point: We covered a lot of ground in that short answer. Acknowledge it is difficult to understand if it hasn’t happened to you. Explain in as few words as possible what it’s like to receive “the burning in the bosom” that the Holy Ghost brings. Explain that this was not a one-time experience but that the Holy Ghost continues to bless your life with pure knowledge. Let your friend know that these experiences are sacred. Testify that millions of others have had the same experience. Offer to share Moroni’s promise (Moroni 10:3–5).
To the skeptic, there is no point in sharing scripture stories where revelation is given and received. If he doesn’t accept the scriptures, he won’t accept your stories. The best you can do is share Moroni 10:3–5 and invite him to put Moroni’s challenge to the test. He may accept the challenge, or he may not. Or he may finally accept it 20 years later.
One final thought—there is another type of person who may ask the question of how you can know the things of God: the individual without religious background but who is nevertheless looking for truth in his life. To this person, the idea that spiritual truths can be known may be a new and strange concept. “Who am I,” he might think, “to be able to know the truth of God when so many great minds through the centuries have tried and only come to confusion?”
If you encounter any of us out there—and I say “us” because my wife and I were both in that group before we met, married, and joined the Church—then you hold a precious soul in your hands. Share Moroni’s promise, and tell them that there is a central truth and it can be known. Then invite them not to take your word for it but to find out for themselves. Plant the seed carefully, love them for their seeking hearts, and then trust the harvest to the Lord.
Moroni 10:3–5 When you receive these things, ask God, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true . . .
Joseph Smith—History 1:25 I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it . . .
Doctrine and Covenants 76:22 This is the testimony . . . which we give of him: That he lives!
Question #5: Are you saved?
I’m convinced that sometimes people ask us if we believe we are saved only to watch us stumble all over ourselves. Ask a Mormon if he is saved, and you are likely to get a long, rambling answer as he tries to sort through the three degrees of glory, explain the characteristics of each, and explain that while all of them are far better than this life—bathed as they are in great light, knowledge, and glory—it is the celestial kingdom he seeks, and it is not certain yet that he will obtain it, but he hopes to, and if it’s a lesser kingdom, he’s not really sure if he’ll be happy about it or not.
If you ask a fellow Christian of another faith if he is saved, he will say, “Yes.”
We need not worry about answering the question of whether or not we are saved. The traditional and general definition of the word saved is one who has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, has felt the Holy Spirit in his life confirming the power of Christ to bring about his salvation, and who therefore has a bright and lively hope (see 1 Peter 1:3) of his eventual resurrection into a kingdom of glory beyond anything he can now comprehend.
All of which sounds like good Mormon doctrine to me.
The short answer: “Yes, and isn’t it wonderful? I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and am doing my best to live by His teachings. And when I fall short, I know that His grace will keep me from being cast off.”
There are, of course, nuances to this doctrine and biblical scriptures that emphatically teach that becoming “saved” must be more than a one-time experience in the life of a Christian. Consider Peter’s condemnation of the backsliding believer: For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Matthew 10:22 He that endureth to the end shall be saved . . .
Ephesians 2:8–9 By grace we are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast . . .
2 Nephi 25:23 We know it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do . . .
Moroni 10:32 Deny yourself of all ungodliness and love God . . . then is His grace sufficient for you . . .