“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, May 1990, 17
There’s no getting around it: when you love and believe in the Savior and someone says you are not a Christian, it can really hurt. And when they accuse your church or its members of terrible things, it adds even more hurt. But if you are not careful, with the hurt comes anger, an emotion that can be more harmful to you than anything anyone says. So the first thing to do is remember that you truly are a disciple of the Savior. Keep a prayer in your heart for strength to return love for persecution.
Next, it helps to understand why people say such things. There are several basic reasons or motives:
Some are only repeating what they have heard someone else say in order to see how you respond. They may be saying, in effect, “I have heard that you are not Christians, or that Mormons do such and such. How do you respond to that?”
Others firmly believe that they know enough about us to say, “By my definition you are not a Christian, no matter what you say you believe.”
There are, unfortunately, a few who say such things just to needle you. They don’t really care about doctrine. They may be down on religion in general. As a Latter-day Saint, your high standards are well known, so you become a target. Also, some people automatically think that if you profess high standards, you are looking down on them, so they strike back. For example, someone who drinks may feel you condemn them just because it is contrary to your personal ideals.
So, how do you respond when you are faced with false accusations about your church? First, remember that your actions speak far more eloquently about your beliefs than anything you can say. If you are known as one who is honest, who is clean in speech and action, slow to anger, a peacemaker, friendly to all—well, you get the idea. Remember the old question: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Second, do not argue. It only invites the presence of the adversary. Instead, you might calmly ask, “What makes you say that?” If the person who has confronted you seems sincere, you could offer to tell him why we say we are Christians. This will give you the opportunity to bear your personal testimony of the Savior. You can tell how you were baptized in his name, and how you take the sacrament each week in his remembrance. You can introduce the Book of Mormon, with a friendly challenge to read it. (Just a glance at the index, with its pages and pages of references to Jesus Christ, makes a strong statement.)
If someone is obviously just trying to needle you and is using the Church to do so, it’s sometimes better to smile and say, “I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed,” and walk away from the situation.
Sometimes you will encounter those who have been watching anti-Mormon films and reading anti-Mormon literature. They may have been taught wrong things about the church by adults they respect. They feel they do know about us. Many of them are sincere people who really do love the Savior according to their understanding of him. See if you can make that the center of your discussion. Ask them what their definition of a Christian is. Find out what you have in common. For example, we believe in being “born again.” That’s what the whole process of faith, repentance, baptism, taking the sacrament is all about. We believe that after all we can do, we are saved by grace (see 2 Ne. 10:24; 2 Ne. 25:23). We accept Christ as our “personal Savior” when we declare our faith in him, are baptized in his name, and look to him to lift our burden of sin.
Still, after all of that, some say we are not Christian because we believe things about Christ and his gospel that they do not find in the Bible. They simply choose to define “Christian” in such a way that it excludes Latter-day Saints. And let’s face it, we do claim additional knowledge about the Savior and his gospel from revealed sources besides the Bible. People who do not accept those sources will not accept the teachings that come from them. If they want to define “Christian” in a way that excludes our revealed teachings, that is their privilege.
Just remember that you know that your church is founded upon Christ and his teachings, that he leads it today through his prophets and Apostles. Keep your testimony strong and bright and live to be the best possible example of a true Christian. That is the ultimate proof of what you truly believe. Remember, too, when you discuss other people’s beliefs, how much it hurts to have someone malign yours. Always keep in mind the Savior’s example—the way he returned love for persecution, kindness for unkindness, tolerance for intolerance.
Last year I had a similar experience. A young man I met in a high school musical always had something negative to say about the Church. I would argue and Bible bash with him, but I soon found that this was the wrong way to handle it. Instead I started telling him what we believed and stopped telling him he was wrong. He gave me the bit about our not being Christians, too. I just told him that we do worship Christ and explained the real name of the Church to him. People will respect you more and listen to you if you are open about your beliefs. Try it; it really works. That young man is one of my very best friends now. Good luck!
Amy Coleman, 16
Don’t let these individuals tear down your testimony of the Church. Pray for them so that they might realize they are in error. Tell them that you believe in the atonement of Christ and quote 2 Nephi 25:26: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” [2 Ne. 25:26]
If you have been hurt by their accusations, pray to the Lord to help you forgive them. Pray also that you may be humble in your discussions about your beliefs.
Remember, Satan can’t stop the Lord’s work, so don’t be discouraged. However, be aware that Satan is working very hard in this generation to lead people astray.
Jared Nelson, 16
Rio Linda, California
Above all, don’t get defensive and argue. People who are arguing aren’t listening. Also, don’t think that it’s your personal responsibility to change the thought patterns of every one of the kids. Start with the ones you know. Ask them what it means to be Christian and be truly interested in what they have to say. If they attend another church, get them talking about it, and talk about differences and similarities between your church and theirs. You will find that there are many similarities. Also, don’t use an attitude that yours is better than theirs, but do give some possible reasons for the differences, using the Bible as your main source, but also using the Book of Mormon, referring to it as scripture the same way that you refer to the Bible. If they ask questions, great. It means they’re probably listening.
If you can get other people thinking rationally, they will realize that Mormons are Christians and at least respect your beliefs even if they do not choose to share them. In return, you need to respect their beliefs. If a discussion begins to degenerate into an argument, break it off and try again later.
Rebecca Nielsen, 19
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
There are many of these kinds of kids at my school too. My very first step in acting upon their remarks is to pray and ask my Father in Heaven what to do. I know he will give me an honest answer and help me know how to approach the other kids.
Sherry Gillson, 16
I used to be one of those people you describe. The things I said about the Church were not good. I had some friends who were LDS—good, faithful people, and the things I said hurt them. But I didn’t know that what I was doing was wrong.
In that group of friends the Lord gave me a special blessing. They saw beyond my words to my heart and loved the person even though the words hurt. I will be forever grateful for that mature, Christlike love that looked on the “inward man.” Because of that love I read the Book of Mormon and listened to the missionaries. I could never take back the wrongs I had done, but I could set the record straight. I joined the Church and served a full-time mission.
There is no “secret formula,” no way to “prove” what you believe to be true. Only the love of the Master will change people. Since you are his disciple, I ask you to love those kids at school the same way I was loved. Their lives will change, and so will yours.
D. Layne Bell, 23
Correct them gently and ask them to come to church with you. Tell them about the Church, but don’t belittle their religion. Think what Christ would do, and remember the 11th article of faith. [A of F 1:11]
Kevin Dalton, 12
Las Vegas, Nevada
I can sure empathize with you. Before I came on my mission I was faced with these same problems, and even now being a missionary I face this problem. The following steps are a few things I do myself.
First, always remember what the Savior told the Nephites (and earlier the Jews), “Pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (3 Ne. 12:44).
Second, read the story of Samuel the Lamanite. Look for the persecutions he endured and see how the Lord sustained him.
Third, be an example of what a good Christian should be.
Fourth, bear your testimony to them. This is a way for them to feel the Spirit, and it gives you a chance to invite them to hear the missionary discussions and learn that we really are Christians.
Elder John Moore, Jr., 20
North Carolina Raleigh Mission
I recently returned from the Texas San Antonio Mission. I learned while proselyting and running into those kinds of accusations that debating the matter NEVER works. I found that a simple testimony worked best. I would usually say something like “Sir/Ma’am, I’m sorry you feel this way, but I KNOW that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” They can’t debate with your testimony. Also remember that our Savior affected many people with his example, and that this is a great way to show people you are a Christian.
Kevin Cundick, 21
The people you know who try to “tear down the Church” may never change, and you may not be able to help them, even if they are your fiends, but in Doctrine and Covenants 10:43 the Lord said, “I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.” The important thing is for you to remain faithful.
Always read your scriptures and depend on prayer. Alma 37:37 says, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.”
Amy Searle, 17
West Valley, Utah
First of all, don’t get defensive. Sometimes those who criticize our religion might be trying to get you upset. The Spirit will not dwell where there are hard feelings or anger. Be calm and believe in yourself. Then look for an opportunity to share your beliefs.
Pray to your Heavenly Father to guide you and bless you with patience.
Penny Horan, 16
Livonia, New York
They tear down the Church because they don’t fully understand what it’s all about. So keep smiling and invite them to church.
Kimberly Gandolph, 13