Here's what Catholic blogger Joe Heschmeyer suggests his fellow believers do when Mormon missionaries knock on their doors: listen, appreciate the good things their church does, find some areas of commonality, then point out, ever so gently, where they get theology and history terribly wrong.
Heschmeyer, who writes for a blog called Shameless Popery, understands the social appeal of Mormonism, especially for less-then-ardent Catholics.
"You have someone, maybe they go to Mass every Sunday and slip out after without talking to anyone. Despite going there for years, they're relatively anonymous, and, in any case, don't see the other parishioners except on Sunday morning," the D.C. Catholic writes. "Then a couple of Mormons meet with them, and simply act Christian towards them. They don't persuade them (at first), they simply witness through their conduct. Perhaps they'll do a few meals together and get to know one another, and one day, the missionaries will probably invite this person to their church, where the same thing happens: They find a welcoming community."
By the time the missionaries get to dogma, he writes, it's a battle between "the head and the heart."
And Mormons aren't stupid. They know to emphasize praying about it and to point out their Christian service.
"If those are the only two ways you're seeking truth, it's easy to come away with the impression that God must want you to be Mormon, " Heschmeyer writes, "and that the LDS Church must be God's church, since it bears such good fruit."
But, he writes, that is no place to stop. Instead, Catholics should begin to evangelize the evangelizers.
"Mormons are great at recognizing the importance of apostolic succession, of a central church hierarchy, of a leadership guarded by the Holy Spirit," he writes, "of speaking the truth in love, and so on."
That's when Catholics can affirm that they believe all those teachings, too, Heschmeyer writes, "without suffering from the many flaws of Mormonism."
But, he insists, any such exchange must be done with kindness.
"The single most important thing to remember when dealing with Mormons (or anyone) is to do it lovingly," he writes. "Name-calling, just telling them they're a 'cult,' or 'not Christian,' or anything else, is unhelpful."
Sure, he says, it might make Catholics feel superior, "but if we're genuinely concerned for their spiritual well-being, do for them what you would want done for you."
Peggy Fletcher Stack
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