The Sledge Hammer of a Free Gift
One of the most profound insights into Mormonism that former Mormons have given us is how the message of salvation as a free gift often hits Mormons like a sledge hammer when they first hear it. We naturally expect them to feel relief and joy at this great news. But all many hear is that we are saying that their entire life’s focus and work are worthless. That can be devastating.
Here’s a simple analogy. Suppose that I had spent quite a few hours doing my taxes. I gather all my receipts. I scour through all my payments in search of every last deduction. I read up on the new tax laws. I download all the forms and painstakingly fill them out. Just when I’m on the home stretch, my wife comes in and asks what I am doing. I tell her and she replies that she has already done all that and has already filed our taxes! I doubt if my first reaction at hearing that will be one of joy – even though the work has been all done.
Now multiply that a hundredfold and we might begin to realize why many Mormons don’t initially react with great joy at our message of free salvation. This is such a common reaction that former Mormons warn us about even using the word “free” seeing that it is such a red flag word for many Mormons.
So what should we do? Should we not talk about our free salvation? That obviously is no solution. Refraining from talking about that destroys our entire message.
But what we can do is speak it with a good deal of empathy. Consider again my analogy. If my wife knew what I had been working on, she would have broken the news that she had already done it quite differently. She would have realized that my first reaction could easily be one of disbelief and frustration – even anger. Aware of that she would have approached me much more gently.
That’s what we need to do. A gentle approach is called for. We need to be aware that there is a good chance that our message that Jesus has done it all will be devastating to them. Just acknowledging that fact with them will go a long way. Probably the worst mistake we can make is being shocked that they don’t immediately rejoice when they hear this news.
After broaching the subject, we need to gently but firmly keep the focus on it. Most Mormons will need time – a lot of time – to overcome their first reaction of flatly rejecting our message. Then they will need time to discuss and process all the ins and outs of it. This is good because this gives us ample opportunities to repeatedly bring them into contact with God’s powerful word. As they wrestle with various Bible passages, the Holy Spirit has more and more opportunities to work on them. And that is vitally important because, as Paul wrote, faith comes from hearing the message (Romans 10:17).
Speaking the truth in love takes on many forms. Being aware of the likely impact our message has on Mormons and then expressing that awareness to them is a loving thing to do.