Interview with two Mormon Elders
Written May 25, 2003
Updated Feb 8, 2009
Two men knocked at the door on a wet but sunny Friday morning in April.
The girls were baking bread, and I was still in my sweats. These were not the
usual teenage mormon missionaries. They were in their 40s, and their name tags
said "Elder". I invited them in for a chat.
"Do you believe in the Trinity?", they asked.
"Yes, I believe in the authority of Scripture and give great importance to the
early Church Councils."
"Have you ever looked at John 17?"
"Why don't you read it," I suggested.
"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said,
Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify
After reading, they asked, "How could Jesus be speaking to the Father if
Jesus and the Father are different expressions of the same Person?"
"Because they are not the same Person. The doctrine of the Trinity states
that there is one God in three Persons. The idea that the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit are three different modes or expressions of the same Person is
the heresy commonly known today as Modalism. It was
at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, where it was known as the error
of the Sabellians after the Bishop who promoted it. It is blatantly
as you have just pointed out."
"We've never heard this before! We've been going door to door for five years,
and every Catholic or Protestant we've talked to has explained the Trinity
as three expressions of the same Person."
"Well, doesn't your Church teach the doctrine of Original Sin? How can
a just God punish someone for sins they didn't commit?"
"He doesn't. As the prophet says, The soul that sinneth, it shall die.
[Ezekiel 18:20] There are two aspects of Sin which must be dealt with.
The Protestant Hymn
Rock of Ages says:
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Anglicans call this the guilt and the power of Sin. Catholics call it
the guilt and the stain of Sin. The guilt of Sin is the deserved wrath
of God for actual sins commited.
Original Sin is the
power or stain of Sin which so deforms our being, body and soul, that apart
from God we have no hope."
"We've never heard that before. Everyone we've spoken with before said
that Original Sin means all of us are doomed to Hell because of Adam's
"Well, that's true. We are condemned for our own sin, not Adam's. But the
stain of Sin we inherit from Adam makes our own sin inevitable, apart
from the Grace of God."
"The Mormon Church teaches that we are born innocent. It is only
through the corrupting influence of family and society that we learn
sin. We must work to overcome this corrupting influence."
"Family and society are certainly some of the means by which the stain of Sin
is passed down to us from Adam. But that stain reaches to our inmost
being, and we need no help from a bad environment to commit sin. Even our
DNA is corrupted. The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?"
"We too believe that we can please God only by the Grace and power of the
Uniqueness of God
Having found so many points of agreement, my guests were nearly ready
to consider me an honorary Mormon, but I interrupted them to point
out a glaring incompatibility between Mormonism and Christianity.
Mormonism teaches that God and Man have the same nature. As God once was,
Man is. As God is, Man will become. According to Mormonism, God
is not the Unique Creator, but those who attain to the Celestial Kingdom
will themselves become gods, creating and peopling their own universes.
In Mormon theology, there are infinitely many gods. There is only
one god relatively, the one who created our particular universe, but
infinitely many in absolute terms. In Mormon Theology, Christ is not
the God who created our world, but the spiritual offspring of our
God, just like us, and just like Lucifer. Jesus is the "spirit brother
It is important to note that Mormons consider Jesus to be in very nature
as God (the same as us), as well as a distinct Person. So they are
"infinitarians" - their doctrine is similar to the Trinity, but the
persons of God include along with Jesus, all of humanity and infinitely
But as Christians, we sing "Who is like unto Thee, O LORD among the gods?"
And God says to us, "Can the Pot say to the one who formed it, 'Why have
you made my thus?'" Our hope is to be like Christ in His Humanity,
but we will never be as God. That was the desire of Lucifer, and
the promise of the serpent.
My guests went away thoughtful. They had heard the Christian Gospel
for the first time. As a parting gift, they offered to mow my lawn.
But perhaps they thought I was a maverick. After
all, none of the other Christians they had spoken with
said any of these things. By their testimony, Catholic and Protestant were
alike in this respect.
Christians of all stripes must heed the admonition of Peter: "Be ready
always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."
Update: The above is my recollection written a month after the visit (Apr 25,
2003). It is my honest recollection, and I will not change it, however, Jeff
Bennion emailed me to say,
I recently read your article "Interview with two Mormon Elders" and would like
to point out two discrepancies. First you said, "These were not the usual
teenage Mormon missionaries. They were in their 40s, and their name tags said
"Elder"". Mormon church policy does not allow single men over the age of 27 to
serve as full-time missionaries (occasional exceptions are made in foreign
countries). You also write that they said, "We've been going door to door for
five years....". Mormon missionaries serve for two years, with an occasional
extension of a month or two. Several decades ago, missionaries served for
2-1/2 years and occasionally as long as 3 years, but never 5 years.