I’ve decided to give a brief history of my life in regard to Mormonism. As I’ve stated in the past, most Evangelicals know very little about the LDS church and have little concern to learn more than they already know. So, why am I, an Evangelical who has never stepped foot into Utah, so actively engaged in dialogue with Mormons?
I grew up largely in the Philippines. My parents were missionaries in a mountainous region of the country and trained future pastors at a Bible college. My earliest interactions with Mormonism was mostly newly built LDS chapels. When we arrived in the Philippine, the Manila Temple was just being completed. Over the next 8 years LDS ward houses began popping up across the country in some of the most remote locales across the country.
These ward houses were always marked by two things: immaculate construction that surpassed anything the locals could afford to put together themselves and a pristine unused basketball court. Filipinos love basketball and so with brilliance the LDS church put a full sized concrete basketball court next to every building they constructed. There was a tall fence around every ward house (as there was around everything in the country) and the basketball court was for members only. So Filipinos were always outside the fence salivating over the unused basketball court.
There was a general disdain for the LDS church among Evangelical missionaries (no surprise there). Protestant missionaries for years had been making inroads into unreached tribes throughout the country. Many missionaries had lived for over 40 years in communities that had no written language and little contact with the outside world. They did this in an effort to provide the people with literacy and a Bible written in their own heart language. LDS missionaries never entered a community that Protestant missionaries had not already been working in for many years. Whether language was a barrier or not, the LDS church never “set up shop” in any place that a Protestant church did not already exist. The perception among Evangelical missionaries was that agents of an imposter of Biblical Christianity were piggy-backing off of their hard work and stealing weaker, less grounded Prostestants. It was generally agreed that teaching Mormonism to anyone who didn’t already have a background in the Bible must have been pointless. Or in other words you could only distort Christianity to Christians.
Americans stuck out like sore thumbs in the Philippines. It was reasonable to expect to know every white person we saw. The ones we didn’t know were always LDS missionaries. My strongest memories of running into LDS missionaries were at McDonalds, at a Harlem Globetrotters game and on a plane flight from the U.S.
I attended a boarding school for missionary kids located in Manila. At one point in one of my high school Bible classes, Mormonism was discussed. Our teacher advised us (wisely I think) not to engage in debates with any Mormon missionaries we might encounter. His counsel was that these missionaries would probably know the Bible better than we did. And with that advise I avoided getting into any discussions of faith with any Mormons I ran across. . . . to be continued.