Christ is Risen!
As a former Mormon (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS) but now a convert to the Holy Orthodox Church for 18 Paschas, I may be able to illumine some of you on the Mormon mind and its approach to Theology. First thing to remember is that the Mormon’s see their church as a prophetic church, i.e. their President of the Church is a prophet who can change things as needed to fit the needs of society today and the protection of the church as needed. To the Mormon, this shows them the hand of God in the workings of their church and maintaining it relevance. To the world this appears to be charismatic leadership gone awry but to the Mormon, it is a sign of truth.
The LDS church was historically developed out of the Campbellite Movement of the 1820-30’s a part of the “Great Awakening” in America of the protestant evangelical/ millennial movement. From the Campbellites the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ and the united Church of Christ developed as mainline protestant denominations. The LDS church originally was called the Church of Christ and Later by prophetic revelation was changed and incorporated as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The LDS church took the Campbellite teaching that the Christian Church needed to be restored to the protestant vision of the early church to the next logical level of the Entire Church had fallen and needed full restoration.
As the church evolved under the leadership of Joseph Smith Jr, its first president and prophet---new scriptures (The Book of Mormon revealed by the Angel Moroni) joined the Bible to clarify confused issues like infant baptism (no), baptism by immersion (yes), frequent communion (yes), definition of the Holy Trinity as Three separate Gods (thru a vision of God the Father and God the Son to Joseph Smith Jr), Priesthood of all believers (Aaronic Priesthood restored by John the Baptist and Melchizadek Priesthood restored by Apostles Peter, James, and John) revealed to Joseph Smith, Jr. Day to day revelations organizing the beliefs of the LDS church were given to Joseph Smith Jr and recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. Plural Marriage and a Temple Endowment promising godhood to faithful Mormons, based upon a purification of Masonic temple ritual were established before the mob killing of Joseph Smith, Jr. Additional revelations/statements were placed in the Doctrine and Covenants after the death of Joseph Smith Jr---Brigham Young’s appointing him as the successor of Joseph. Wilford Woodruff’s announcement stopping polygamy as an active practice in the church, and Spencer W. Kimball’s revelation to allow Negroes to hold the priesthood.
Mormonism is truly a Gnostic church patterned with teachings of secret keys to hidden knowledge being prominent in the teachings of the actual theology of the church. They hold these secret teachings or hidden knowledge as sacred and therefore not to be spoken about to the uninitiated. After I had received my own Temple endowment, the president of the Swiss Temple gave a lecture I attended in the LDS Temple in Zollikofen Switzerland in which he explained the four levels of knowledge in the LDS Church:
Level One---The Inquirer Level ---this is better known as the teaching level of the LDS Missionary program. This is a series of around eight lessons that are very clearly developed and memorized by the Missionaries and taught to the non-Mormon. It introduces basic levels of LDS doctrine like the Holy Trinity being separate people with the Father and Son having bodies of flesh and bone. The fallen state of the Christian Church and its need to be “restored” by Joseph Smith, Jr. Other teachings like tithing and a brief intro to church programs is given. Not very in-depth, the lessons are meant to get the person to agree to Baptism and sate some level of belief in Joseph Smith Jr and his revelations. [Note: at this time the person is presented with the “perfection of the church” and the love shown by the LDS to the inquirer is often cited as the main reason many came into the church.]
Level Two---The New Member Level --- This is the level at which a deepening of teaching about the LDS church and theology is done. New Keys of understanding are offered and the person’s membership in the church is stabilized. New definitions are offered of common Christian Terminology and teachings---commonly referred to as “Mormonisms” ---these terms are relatively clearly delineated in LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine. As the teachings and beliefs are taught in more depth the focus shifts to the new member getting the Temple Endowment and eternal marriage being given as the goal. Promises of deeper knowledge and understanding are given during the classes, whetting the appetite of the new member to become “fully” a Mormon. For at least a year the new member is expected to tithe, live the Word of Wisdom [Mormon Health rules], attend church, and evangelize non-Mormons. [Note: many converts are lost in the first year as they gradually understand the differences between orthodox/heterodox teachings of the Christianity and the teachings of the LDS church]
Level Three---The Temple Endowed Member ---at this level, the member achieves adulthood in the LDS Church. The temple ritual, which was a “restoration” of apostate Masonic ritual to the “purity” of the true, Temple Service makes use of the traditional signs and tokens of the Free Masonic Order adapted by Joseph Smith Jr to the LDS Temple ritual. Every person who is to be endowed is symbolically washed and anointed a king and queen and given a new white garment they are to wear for the rest of their lives---the garment contains the Masonic symbols of the square and the compass and markings at the naval and right knee. Each person then places white temple clothing over these garments and go the their full endowment of knowledge in the Temple ceremony. The Ceremony is a series of small plays (In some modern temples filmed versions of the plays) representing the creation, fall of Adam and Eve, and The World today, during which signs and tokens of the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizadek Priesthood are given. Phrases and teachings of the temple become the keys of hidden wisdom that open for the endowed members the sermons and writings of the church in ways that the unendowed or unitiated do not have. When these phrases are read or said the initiated has a completely different understanding of the text than the unitiated. After being taught the true order of prayer, each person is individually taken to the Veil of the Temple, a large white curtain with the symbols placed on their temple garment being on the veil. Here they undergo a rehearsal of the Judgment to enter heaven---they are quizzed on the knowledge, names, tokens and signs that they have received in the temple. If successful, they go through the veil and enter the Celestial Room of the Temple---The Celestial Room is very Ornate and symbolizes the beauty of heaven. If they are to be sealed in eternal marriage they enter the Sealing room off this room where they kneel at an altar and sealed by the Temple Presidency to their eternal spouse, this closes by a curtain being lifted and the couple looking into two mirrors which reflect off each other in infinite images---this shows them howl they are eternally married. The endowed member comes out highly empowered much like the early Gnostics with the power they know something only the “‘elect” know.
Level Four---Calling and Election Made Sure ---I did not experience this in my membership in the LDS church, and I believe most LDS members do not achieve this level. This level was specifically mentioned by the Temple President in his lecture, however, the “ Calling and Election Made Sure” is the goal of every endowed Mormon, It is when, in the Temple Jesus Christ is fully revealed to the member---at this point they do not know by faith but know by fact what Joseph taught about Jesus is true. They have made it, they will be a god for eternity. Should they commit any sin, they must pay for it themselves, as did Jesus did for them previously. They have achieved full and perfect knowledge and thus are responsible for themselves. The temple President said you will never know who has their calling and election made sure because those who say they have it don’t and those who have it won’t acknowledge they have it.
The Mormon is an extremely hard person to evangelize unless he is disaffected by some policy or offended by an individual or leader of the Church, however, you can effectively work with any Mormon if you will follow these few suggestions from someone who left and became an Orthodox Christian.
1) Remember that the LDS person is blinded by the father of all lies and must be approached prayerfully by the Orthodox Christian.
2) Pray to the Holy Spirit to guide you and release the blinders that bind them so they may hear what you are saying.
3) Ask the Most Holy Theotokos and the Saints of Heaven to intercede before the Throne of God for the person you are seeking to bring out of the Mormon church.
4) Provide the person with good, strong teachings of the Holy fathers of the Church [I came out after being shaken from my sleep by the Paschal Letters of St Athanasius---his teachings of the Holy Trinity, the Resurrection of Christ were so powerful I could no longer defend the frail LDS beliefs in the brightness of the light of his teachings] and the description of the beliefs of the early Church such as the Didache.
5) Make sure you are attending all the Church services you are able to attend, and prayerfully participate. [Remember that an LDS person is VERY active in his church often serving in a church activity or calling 5-6 days a week---all their social activities are in the church---most of their frie4nds will be LDS when they leave they lose family, friends, social activities, as well as religious activities] You will have to help keep the person actively and positively engaged in Orthodox activities.
6) Finally love them with all your heart as a brother or sister, pray continuously for them even if rebuffed.
I hope that you will bring into their heart the reality of Christ as taught by the Orthodox Church. Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!