18
Mar

Why IRR Invests Internationally

   Posted by: Rob Bowman   in IRR, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism

NOTE: This is a special blog entry from Joel B. Groat, the Coordinator for International Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research.

 

Last year I made mission trips to Madagascar and Mexico—diverse countries with significant common denominators: serious social conflict, sacrificial Christian missionary work and successful Mormon proselytizing. Events in the first category are capturing national headlines, and I’m concerned for good friends in the midst of the fray; but it’s the last two that capture my heart.

You see, my parents are Christian missionaries, and I was raised in Venezuela (in South America). Growing up I witnessed firsthand the sacrifices my parents and other missionary “uncles” and “aunts” made to take the living water of salvation “by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone” to people who had never heard. So, you’ll understand why the following quotes from the Mormon magazine, Ensign, struck a nerve. The article talked about how the work of Christian missionaries has aided Mormon proselytizing. The subhead gives a clue:

They Help Prepare the Way. Just as they have done for years, deeply faithful Catholic and Protestant Christians continue to preach that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world today among many peoples, both near and far.… Often, the fundamentals given to people through Christian missionaries are essential to their ability to understand and accept the restored [Mormon] gospel when they have that opportunity.

Dale LeBaron, assistant professor of Church history at Brigham Young University, went to Africa in the summer of 1988 to interview black Latter-day Saints who had joined the Church shortly after the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. He interviewed 400 members and found that, of that number, 398 were already Christians, while 2 had been Muslims, before joining the [Mormon] Church. Not one member of the group came directly from a native religion. Virtually all were prepared for the message of the fulness of the gospel by previous Christian training. One has to wonder how many would have joined the Church if the Catholic and Protestant missionaries had not been in Africa ahead of the Latter-day Saints, making it a fertile field in which the fulness of the gospel could take root. (emphasis added) (Roger R. Keller, “Do I Know My Neighbor?”, Ensign, March, 1991)

So, of 400 new Mormon converts in Africa, 398 were “already Christians” and “none came directly from a native religion.”

That pattern is being repeated around the world. Christian missionaries learn the language, translate the Bible, share, teach, witness, and lead people to faith in Christ, only to have counterfeit groups like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses capitalize on a new convert’s spiritual immaturity and lead them astray.

While I was in Madagascar, I spoke to a couple of young American Mormon missionaries I met on the street in downtown Antananarivo (no wonder they call it “Tana” for short). As we talked it became clear they were doing little or nothing to distinguish the Mormon teaching on God and Jesus from the orthodox, traditional Christian teaching most Malagasy people had grown up with, content to let them assume they were similar if not identical. Whether intentional or through ignorance, such proselytizing is deceptive and misleading.

A couple of weeks ago I met the Africa director of an evangelical ministry that takes the Gospel to tribes and peoples who have never heard of Jesus Christ. This Kenyan Christian leader told about the time he was teaching a workshop for national pastors in Africa, and discovered that 16 of the nearly 70 Christian pastors in attendance (many of them Baptists) were using the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their preaching and personal Bible study. Fortunately, he recognized the danger and respectfully exchanged these for accurate translations of the Bible. All over the world where the Christian church is growing and the gospel is bearing fruit, pastors and leaders need to be trained in discernment regarding false and heretical religions.

This is why I’ve accepted requests from Christian leaders in Mexico and Panama to do training conferences for their pastors and leaders in July of this year. It is also why, Lord willing, I’m going back to Madagascar in 2010. IRR is blessed to have contacts around the world that are eager and excited about helping us coordinate much needed training. But it’s also why we need your help.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 at 9:12 pm and is filed under IRR, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 comments so far

 1 

Recently I toured American Samoa and the Independent State of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) doing seminars on Mormonism. In both cases the Mormons are doing exactly what Mr. Groat states. For about the last four decades or so LDS missionaries have been successfully highjacking converts out of Christian churches without clearly disclosing their unbiblical doctrines. I think the evangelical Christian pastors in those highly Christian lands are waking up to this fact and going on the offensive to educate their people about the truth of Mormonism.

March 20th, 2009 at 7:56 am
Seth R.
 2 

“As we talked it became clear they were doing little or nothing to distinguish the Mormon teaching on God and Jesus from the orthodox, traditional Christian teaching most Malagasy people had grown up with, content to let them assume they were similar if not identical.”

Obviously that’s not the case. If the Mormon missionaries were doing that, the people would have no reason to leave your churches, would they?

You don’t abandon something just to join something else that is exactly identical. So clearly the Mormon missionaries are distinguishing themselves from you in some way.

May 18th, 2009 at 9:13 am
lindalds
 3 

“LDS missionaries have been successfully highjacking converts out of Christian churches without clearly disclosing their unbiblical doctrines.”

You make it sound like those poor heathen people are so stupid they can’t make up their own minds about what they do or do not believe.
My husband is Samoan, from Am. Samoa, and I know lots of Samoans. They are intelligent people who know what they believe. They are not highjacked, they are not joining blindly, they KNOW what they are doing.
I think you are being just a little racially prejudiced against the Samoan people.

Also, you said “going on the offensive to educate their people about the truth of Mormonism.”
The operative word here is “offensive”. I have found that even those with good intentions, like IRR, don’t always get it quite right. Even Mr. Bowman doesn’t get it quite right. He doesn’t seem to be describing the church that I’ve belonged to for the last 30some years.
Preach the gospel. That’s it. Let people decide for themselves. We don’t do anything underhanded or anything to high jack people away or anything. We just present our case and let them make up their own minds. Don’t sell people short by suggesting that they’re stupid if they join the Mormons.

June 16th, 2010 at 5:37 am
PapaJoel
 4 

While I’ll need to let Tal respond to his own comment, I can say it is highly unlikely he views these people as either “heathen” or “stupid,” and I certainly don’t. You are absolutely correct – the Samoan, Malagasy and Latin American people I have dealt with are intelligent, and sincere. The issue is LDS missionaries do not clearly articulate the differences on key points such as the nature of God, the identity of Jesus Christ and the LDS teaching on the atonement (sometimes because they themselves have not been taught what they are). See our Gospel Principles Study Guide – http://www.irr.org/mit/Gospel-Principles-Study-Guide.html — for specifics and documentation on these points. When they talk to an evangelical Christian or someone who holds to historic, biblical beliefs they affirm agreement with the person’s belief and then go on to talk about all the great things Mormonism simply “adds” to those beliefs – like ordinances for the dead, and families being together for eternity. So rather than seeing contrasts and choosing, many people see themselves making simply a lateral shift and adding in Mormon distinctives to their current Christian beliefs. Allowing that to happen is taking advantage of a person’s lack of knowledge and is a form of deception and manipulation. I guess for me that has nothing to do with a person’s intellectual ability, we are desiring that people get the whole story. I’m sorry you see that as a form of racial prejudice, to me it’s a form of caring.

June 21st, 2010 at 10:27 am

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