Expert: Prepare to witness to Mormons & God will show the way
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)--"We are here to give you the tools to share Jesus," Dennis Higley said in setting the tone for a Mormon Awareness Conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Higley and his wife, Rauni, founded H.I.S. (He Is Savior) Ministries International in 1982, an organization dedicated to helping Mormons who have questions about their faith.
Other speakers included James Walker, president and CEO of Watchman Fellowship, an evangelical cult-watch organization; Phil Roberts, president of Midwestern Seminary; Tal Davis, North American Mission Board interfaith evangelism manager; Cky Carrigan, North American Mission Board interfaith evangelism national missionary for the Atlantic Coast; and Austin Morris, president of LifeLine Ministries.
The two-day conference relayed a basic background of Mormon beliefs, focusing on their understanding of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the plan of salvation. "These are foundational topics that Christians need to know" in order to reach Mormons, Higley noted.
A former sixth-generation Mormon, Higley is a descendant of one of the church's founding members. His wife Rauni was a nominal Lutheran before she converted to Mormonism in her native Finland in 1963. Orphaned at an early age, she was cared for by a family in the Mormon church.
While serving an 18-month "mission" in fulltime service to the LDS church, Rauni met Dennis, who was also serving a mission in Finland. One of Rauni's assignments was to translate the temple ceremony into Finnish, which she believed would help her understand it better. Instead, she found inaccuracies and disturbing elements that caused her to start doubting her faith.
In 1982 she told Dennis she could no longer be a part of the church, causing much tension between the two.
It was when Dennis finally took the time to check out the information for himself that he became convinced the LDS church was in error. In an initial response of anger, he vowed he would have nothing to do with organized religion.
Still, he was determined to seek the truth. Through a series of Bible study tapes given to them by a friend, he and Rauni both accepted the Christ of the Bible.
A year later, the Higleys sent a letter to the LDS church requesting their names be removed from church records. This led to their excommunication from the church, immediately followed by rumors that were spread about possible grievous sins they had committed.
Their departure so upset local church leaders that the Higleys' retail businesses were boycotted, leading to their financial ruin. They eventually relocated to a suburb of Salt Lake City.
The Higleys soon were asked to speak to Christian groups regarding their experience. It was then that this couple discovered their calling -- to educate Christians and evangelize Mormons.
Those who attended the mid-October Midwestern Seminary conference got a rare insight into temple ceremonies reserved only for temple-worthy Mormons. Rauni estimated that during their two decades with the LDS church she and her husband had performed hundreds of ceremonies. "This is still spooky to me," Rauni said. "This is something that I have goose bumps all over me because it's very difficult.
"When we left the Mormon church, we denounced everything we had ever participated in," Rauni said. "We denounced all of our temple work, and doing anything that was connected with Mormonism. Denouncing [Mormonism] showed the whole world where our hearts really were.
"We took all of our temple clothes we had used in the temple ceremonies and we burnt all of those," Rauni said. "We got rid of everything that was connected with Mormonism. We feel by renouncing our involvement in it we showed the Lord where our heart really was."
Walker, also an ex-Mormon, said he was first introduced to Christianity in grade school when a classmate shared the Gospel with him. Even though it would be years before Walker accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he never forgot the encounter.
Walker said he cannot overemphasize the importance of evangelizing Mormons. To those caught in the deception of the Mormon church, Walker said, it is the responsibility of Christians to speak the truth in love.
The most important tool in evangelizing Mormons is developing relationships, Walker said. "You can have all the information in the world but if you haven't won the right [to witness], then you're not going to nearly have the impact."
Morris, a sixth-generation Reformed Latter-day Mormon and a former RLDS minister, gave his testimony how in 1992 he came to truly believe in the forgiving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"I began to read the Bible that had been tainted by Joseph Smith," Morris said. "I began to test Joseph Smith and his many claims. I found 70 glaring evidentiary problems with his claims, and it affected everything Smith did, start to finish.
"The important thing about Mormon salvation," Roberts said, "is that Mormons are not out to save you from hell because they don't believe you are going there. In fact they believe very few people are going to go to hell, or in their nomenclature perdition or outer darkness."
Roberts noted that Mormon missionaries "are out there knocking on doors because they want you to have the privilege of entering the celestial kingdom. The only way to get into that kingdom is to be a temple-worthy Mormon. That's their goal. That's their purpose. That's their mission."
Davis pointed out that the real authority of the Mormon Church is not in any books but in a person. "Mormons believe that they have, living on the earth, a living prophet, a man who is capable of receiving direct revelations from God," Davis said of their current president and past presidents.
One of the fastest-growing churches in the world, the Mormon church currently claims a membership of 7 million worldwide and 60,000 missionaries. Children who are born into Mormon families are counted as members of the church.
The fast rate of growth of the LDS church is one of many reasons why Christians must be well-versed about the LDS church, Walker said.
Walker added, "If you equip yourself and learn about Mormon terminology and doctrine, God will give you the opportunity to use it in a practical way -- miraculously."