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 thee:"
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 condemned 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 unscriptural 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."

Original Sin

"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 Sin."
"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 Holy Spirit."

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 of Lucifer".

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 many others.

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.