The Challenge with Evangelizing to Mormons A challenge with reasoning with Mormons is that they can be disinclined to spend much time with a overt apologist, the kind who is confident in his position and goes straight for talking about Joseph Smith's false prophecies, archaeological problems with Mormonism and other advanced criticisms. After all, missionaries are there to win converts, not be converted. Their disinclination to spend time with apologists (or what they call “anti-Mormons”) means they only get to hear a fraction of the challenges with Mormonism, and only a fraction of the problems with their reasons for believing. Moreover, in that short time they do spend with an overt apologist, Mormons are going to be relatively guarded, and might have little time or desire dwell on the few arguments that the overt apologist gets to raise. Is there a better way? I think there is.
The following is a strategy which esnures that Mormons will both be introduced to more challenges before cutting off communication, and also will think more seriously about those challenges being introduced. After all, they really want to help you. This maximizes the chances of influencing their thought. Additionally, since you are not presenting yourself as an expert, you will feel no pressure to know or provide answers to arguments they give when they are first given. As a final advantage, you get to enjoy friendly discussion and learn more about Mormonism.
In a nutshell: Bring missionaries face-to-face with both their helplessness in converting an ideal rational seeker, and therefore the inadequacy of the case for Mormonism.
“I should hear you out”: You enjoy these discussions and are eager to learn from them and to allow them to make their case. However…
“But I'm cautious”: You are skeptical of Mormonism, and you are only promising to give their teaching a fair shake.
Conversation tip #2: Additionally, remember to maintain a cordial atmosphere. For this strategy to work, you want to be especially good about agreeing with them as much as possible. If you are even slightly convinced of a point, or more persuaded of a point you already believe because of something the said, acknowledge it.—“There is a lot I like about Mormonism, but I just don't see yet how I can accept…”
—“Hmm. Did you ever wonder if... that seems like it would be a worry for me”
—“I guess I just don't understand how I can know that...”
—“Yeah, you know, that makes a lot of sense.”
—“Hmm, that's a good point. I hadn't thought of that”
—"Yeah yeah, exactly, I'm surprised more people don't see that"
What to expect from them
At stage 1 of this strategy, you are just learning, asking shrewd hard questions, and probing them for evidence. No pressure. You can expect the missionaries to forward their assertions very matter-of-factly, however. For example, they are taught to frequently chime in with “we know/testify that this is true.” Just be polite and let them continue talking. In making their case, Mormon missionaries almost always start with the following 1-2 punch:
You can also expect missionaries to encourage you to be reading the Book of Mormon, to listen to specific Mormon sermons online, and maybe to attend church with them. You should consider at least be reading some of the Book of Mormon every week as a gesture of good faith. After expressing the understandable concerns with the 1-2 punch discussed in the links above, you can start evaluating other arguments (which are less predictable, but normally easy to research).
To encourage the missionaries to start thinking about evidence, attempt to regularly be re-affirming your belief that you have good reasons for thinking God exists, and good reasons for thinking Jesus resurrected, and that you just do not see analogously good reason to accept Catholicism, Jehovah's Witness theology, or Mormonism. The goal is for them to see that the grass is greener over here. If they don't see how well evidence a faith can be (in basic Christianity), then how will they know what they are missing out on? You want them to see the difference: that Christianity can be successfully intellectually motivated in a way that Mormonism cannot. They should see that being in the truth “feels” different.
—“I don't know; this seems like a fair criticism, don't you think?”
—“I think what it is saying makes sense”
—“I think they have a point here”
In conclusion, you have now been able to present all your objections, and to be received in the best possible spirit. I take it for granted here that you genuinely are open to being persuaded by the missionaries, if they can make a good case. That is to say, if you are not genuinely open to following the evidence where it leads, then this strategy would all constitute an act of dishonesty in your part, which is not what I am recommending. You should theoretically feel free to show them this article and your “strategy” without them getting upset.
“…I am only interested in the arguments that they are making and claims that they can back up. I ignore everything else. I'm also being careful to check context and double-check what is being said.”