After graduating from high school I came to the United States and attended an Evangelical university. I had zero interaction with Mormons during this time. I’m pretty sure that the local missionaries were told never to step on to our campus by their mission president.
Every student at the school had to take 30 units of Bible classes, so we all basically earned a Minor in Biblical Studies. I learned two things that influenced my future interactions with Mormons. The first was that fideistic epistimology (the belief that faith is best when it is blind and based on a person’s feelings) is not the way the Bible portrays faith or trust. The second was that Mormon missionaries often preached the importance of a “burning-in-the-bosom” in knowing what is or is not true about God, Jesus and the Bible. This sounded an awful lot like fideism to me.
After college I had a couple of LDS missionaries knock on my door on a cold winter night. Regrettably, I made them stand outside while I quickly and efficiently came to the conclusion that I knew way more about the Bible than they did and therefore was “correct” to not show them any kindness or consideration.
A couple of months later I visited my grandmother and step-grandfather. At the same time, one of my step-grandfather’s grandsons was visiting. He was a returned LDS missionary, with what I would now ascertain as a love for some of the old “fundamentals” of Mormonism. The one and only night we were there together we had a riveting but friendly conversation. I really didn’t know that much about Mormonism so I asked a lot of questions. It became evident after some time that my questions were unraveling the foundations of his faith.
I’m not sure if it was my strongest question or if it just happened to be the nail in the coffin, but I asked him a question about the fruitfulness of his mission that seemed to indicate that he needed to stop fielding my inquiries. The question was along these lines: he had told me that very few people were actually going to Hell, but that if he did not achieve exaltation he would feel that he was in Hell because he would know what he was missing. This seemed peculiar to me, that he would spend a bunch of money and two years of his life, to go to Ecuador to tell people about the exalted Kingdom and Mormonism if there was no real threat of going to Hell. This seemed to be an automatic “damnation” to anyone who did not accept his message or did not do everything required to achieve exaltation. They would have been better off in ignorance not knowing anything about Mormonism and then left to a lower kingdom in Heaven in complete bliss. I challenged that according to his beliefs he should have stayed at home and used all of that money to serve the needy in his own community.
My cousin-by-marriage decided it was time for bed after he couldn’t find an answer to my challenge. The next morning at breakfast he sheepishly pulled me aside and said “the Church has been nothing but good for me”. To which I responded “What’s it matter if it’s not true?”
This experience gave me tremendous confidence which played an unfortunate role in my future interactions with Mormons. . . .