My Child is Dating a Mormon
A Parent's Guide to Building Bridges Not Barriers
Table of Contents
“Help! My daughter has been dating a Mormon guy. We weren’t too concerned because she repeatedly told us she wasn’t going to become Mormon. Then yesterday she told us they are engaged and will be married in a few months! On top of that, she said she had been baptized into the LDS Church two weeks ago! What can we do?”
We receive such pleas frighteningly often. And this doesn’t just happen with young adults who have lapsed in their faith. Graduates of Christian colleges and high schools and young adults from very active Christian families, including pastors’ families, have become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Many of the following guidelines are addressed in greater length in our free online Friends and Family Course. We encourage you to read through this material and return to it often.
A quick glance at these guidelines makes it apparent that it will involve a significant amount of time to do the things we recommend. In our experience, however, there is no easy fix. Very rarely will your child quickly recognize the dangers of Mormonism. This is especially true if the couple has been together for an extended time. The more they are invested in it, especially emotionally, the harder it will be for them to see the truth.
But it’s not hopeless.
With God, nothing is hopeless. God’s Word is wonderfully powerful.
Parents, especially those who practiced patience and worked at speaking God’s truth in love, have seen God do amazing things – and at times, not only opening their own child’s eyes but also the eyes of their Mormon friend or spouse. As you work through this material, keep God’s amazing grace and power always in mind.
So, What Can You Do?
The rest of this guide will detail the points summarized below:
Friends & Family
Our closest relationships — our friends & family — are often our highest-risk relationships. These are the people we care about most, yet we often avoid starting a conversation about faith and salvation out of fear of rocking the boat.
If you've felt the tension of desperately wanting to share the truth in love with those you love most, our Friends & Family program is for you.
“There's nothing to worry about.”
You might have thought this as your child started dating their Mormon friend. “They will never become serious.” But often they do. Even after they became serious, some of your friends might have told you not to worry because, after all, Mormons are Christians.
Mormons sincerely believe they are Christians – something they probably have told your loved one frequently. It’s easy to see why they say this. They talk like Christians. They confess Jesus as their Savior. (Savior is one of many words they define differently.) Jesus is even part of their church’s name. On the surface, Mormonism looks so Christian.
But it’s not.
A popular Book of Mormon verse is 2 Nephi 25:23: “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.” The addition of “after all we can do” directly conflicts with the biblical message that we are saved solely by God’s grace demonstrated in what Jesus did for us (See Ephesians 2:8-10).
Mormonism has many other non-Christian beliefs. Our brief online course, Mormonism’s Plan of Salvation gives an overview of Mormonism’s fundamental beliefs. It is an excellent place to start learning about Mormonism.
There’s another reason you need to be concerned. Both LDS doctrine and culture assign much more importance to marriage (and dating) than Christians do. Mormon doctrine teaches that people can be married for all eternity. In fact, they must have an eternal marriage to enter the highest level of heaven.
In keeping with this, Mormons are urged to marry as soon as possible. This urgency becomes especially prevalent in the years following high school and when young Mormons return from their missions. Even during high school, however, many LDS teens focus on finding their future spouse. They often will be encouraged in this both by the LDS church and their families.
The bottom line is that there is a strong possibility the Mormon your young adult is dating is viewing it quite seriously. This seriousness also holds true for their parents. Some LDS parents will actively begin integrating the Christian teen into their family life, viewing them as a potential spouse for their child. The family’s friendliness often then becomes another thing linking them to Mormonism.
Almost to the person, parents bemoan the fact that they didn’t take it more seriously in the beginning. When they do realize they need to be concerned, they often don’t react very well.
Most parents acknowledge that their initial reaction was anger. They were angry at their child for being deceptive in their relationship with their family and being “duped” by a Mormon. Parents were angry at the Mormon for deceiving their child. Sometimes, they were angry at their Christian church for not adequately warning them and their child about Mormonism.
But reacting in anger is rarely helpful. Anger clouds a person’s thinking and strains their relationships. Most parents admit that their initial anger did much more damage than good.
Why Anger? And What to Do About it.
The underlying reason for much of this anger is guilt. Many parents feel guilty that they were not concerned when the couple first started dating. If Christ had become relegated to the back burner of their busy family life, many feel guilty about this. Even when the family actively practices it faith, many parents will look back and see where they have failed. These are just a few reasons. There are more. No matter the reason, almost every parent experiences some degree of guilt.
One of the first things you must do as a parent is to address your spiritual condition. Examine if there are legitimate reasons for your guilt. Had you let other things push Christ from the center of your family life? Did you react in anger and not love? Are there words you wish you could take back? If you uncover such sins, wash away any and all guilt with the blood of Jesus. Experience anew God’s amazing grace.
Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.
Take that to heart! Because Jesus did everything for us, God not only forgives our sins; he forgets them! He completely separates us from them. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). And this applies to all sin. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1).
It is vital that you deal with any guilt you might be carrying. Guilt keeps us looking inwardly while making us look miserable outwardly. It robs us of our joy in Christ and makes us hesitant to talk about Jesus to our loved one. Whenever guilt rears its ugly head, remember that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
If you responded in anger, take the initiative, and acknowledge it to the couple. People are repeatedly surprised at how a simple apology quickly becomes the foundation for rebuilding a shattered relationship. An apology accompanied by an “I love you” and a hug can often melt the ice-cold wall that anger often builds between people.
What does it really mean to be careful?
Being careful, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express the depth of your concern. The key is to do it, not in anger, but in love. Your posture and approach should not be one of angrily demolishing Mormonism. Rather be more like a concerned doctor who must tell his patient that they have a serious condition.
To do this effectively, however, you will need to educate yourself on Mormonism. We will discuss that a little later. Now, however, another point needs to be addressed; namely, evaluating where your child was and is spiritually. Most parents automatically think the only reason their child was attracted to Mormonism was because they became romantically involved with a Mormon. Often, however, there is more involved. Based on hundreds of conversations with Christians who became Mormon, three other common reasons besides the romantic one emerged.
3 Common Reasons Christians Are Attracted to Mormonism
They yearned for the close community they saw in Mormonism. As a result, they became attracted not only to the person they are dating, but to other Mormons as well.
#2 Consistency & Outward Morality
They were impressed by people who lived their religion by practicing what they preached. We are told quite frequently that when they compared the lifestyles of Mormons to those of Christians, there was no comparison. The Mormons’ outward morality became even more appealing if the Christian was not living a moral life and wanted to clean up their act. Many were impressed with the dedication shown by Mormon missionaries who were often their same age.
#3 Attracted to Doctrine
A smaller percentage were attracted to LDS doctrine. Surprisingly, Mormonism’s denial of the Trinity is attractive to some. Christian converts to Mormonism frequently tell us how the Trinity always confused them. Now, however, they could understand the LDS description of God. This is one of many reasons why we don’t recommend beginning talking to them about Mormonism’s denial of the Trinity.
Another attractive LDS teaching is its denial of eternal punishment and its universalism (almost everybody goes to heaven.) This fits well with our culture’s emphasis on toleration.
Do any of these fit your loved one? Even though they had been active in going to church or even attending a Christian school, were they living a less than moral lifestyle? Were they even being encouraged in this by some of their Christian friends? Do you think they wanted to clean up their act?
Or were they searching for a better community? Did they feel their church was cold and people were only superficially connected with each other? Had they become disillusioned by its group for young people?
Or do they know biblical teaching but not really know it? In other words, was their relationship with God more “head” knowledge than a “heart” connection. Had biblical truths penetrated their hearts, or did they just know the correct answers?
These and similar questions are difficult for parents to consider. It’s challenging to evaluate someone you dearly love. Adding to the difficulty is that whenever parents see shortcomings in their children, they quickly take the blame and load themselves with guilt. This is why we all need to daily drown our guilt in God’s saving grace.
Careful reflection is critical.
Another area which deserves evaluation is your relationship with your child. How was it? Was your communication with them already becoming strained? Could one reason for their attraction to Mormonism be that they wanted to rebel? Were you spending less and less time together?
Although challenging, such questions are essential to consider. Take the time to think them through. Discuss them with your spouse. Talk them through with other family members especially your other children. Besides you, they are the ones who are most affected by what their sibling has done. Their relationship with their sibling is different from yours and often they have different insights than you do. By involving them throughout the process, you will be helping them.
The bottom line is that before you initiate serious talks, you need to do some careful reflection.
In many occupations and tasks, mental preparation makes all the difference in the world. How often have we seen the more talented team lose because they weren’t mentally prepared?
The better you understand why your young adult is attracted to Mormonism, the better you will address it. If you don’t give this some thought, there’s a good chance you will miss the mark by not addressing the real issues. Then they will get the impression that talking with you will do no good.
As you prepare to get into serious spiritual discussions with your loved one, not only will you need to be careful; you will also need to be understanding. Again, this is often not easy to do. As you try to come to grips with the situation, it will be difficult to calm down and be understanding. You just want answers! “How could you do this? Don’t you know that Mormonism is a cult? How could you not tell us what was happening?”
Don’t pepper them with questions or accusations. Instead, understand that almost always they didn’t intend to have anything to do with Mormonism. It just happened as they became more attracted to the Mormon they dated.
Even now, they probably don’t know much of what it teaches. This holds true even if they have been baptized into the LDS church. They only know that Mormons are nice people who claim to be Christian. If they have gotten into any religious discussions with them, any fears your child had were put to rest because their Mormon friends assured them, “We believe in Jesus. We just have another testament testifying to him.” (This is how Mormons talk about the Book of Mormon.)
Negativity puts your child on the defensive.
Therefore, if you make negative comments about Mormons, you will put your child on the defensive. If you don’t know any Mormons personally, they might think you are just repeating misinformation you have heard from other Christians. This is why it is rarely wise to share with them articles or websites from Christian sources. Many will reject them out of hand. All this becomes intensified the longer they have been dating. Any negative comment about Mormonism becomes a negative comment about the person they love.
Be understanding of their Mormon friend(s).
Likewise, it’s important to be understanding of their Mormon friend(s). Remember that they sincerely believe they are Christian. Realize, however, that many Mormons don’t have a good grasp of LDS teaching. Mormonism focuses people much more on their deeds, than it does on its creeds. Therefore, trying to get them into a discussion about LDS history or many of their teachings usually falls on deaf ears. They just aren’t interested.
In addition, realize that most Mormons' view of Christianity is seriously warped. Many have never talked in any depth with a Christian. Since they are regularly told Mormonism offers them many things other religions don’t (i.e. the temple, eternal marriage, priesthood power and authority), many will consciously or subconsciously think they are better than Christians. If and when this attitude becomes apparent, you will need to fight hard not to take it personally and lash out at them. Doing so will quickly destroy any progress you might have made.
So what should you do?
It almost sounds like we are telling you to be quiet and not share your concerns with the couple. We aren’t saying that at all! What we are saying is that you need to talk and act carefully. You need to speak the truth in love to them. Before you can do that, however, you will need to educate yourself about Mormonism and ways to witness Christ to them.
Let's talk about that next.
There is a tremendous amount of information about Mormonism on the internet. There are articles detailing the contradictions in Mormon scriptures. Others go into great length about the character of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the two main figures in LDS history. Still others will describe all the problems in the Book of Mormon. On and on it goes.
Rarely will any of this help you as you talk with the couple. In fact, most of the time such topics will anger them and make meaningful conversation even more difficult.
There are times when they will respond with anger no matter what you say or do. After decades of counseling parents, however, we are confident that when you talk about the things which bring stress to Mormons, the likelihood of an angry response dramatically diminishes.
A resource spelling those stresses out is the one mentioned before, our video course, Mormonism’s Plan of Salvation. Work through it carefully and thoughtfully. Imagine trying to live as a Mormon. Walk a mile in their shoes.
Learn to speak their language.
A huge contributor to your child’s lack of understanding of Mormonism is its practice of defining key biblical terms drastically differently. Unfortunately, this means they often hear with Christian ears what Mormons say, not recognizing the differences. They then conclude that Mormons are Christians. To help you understand these unique definitions, we have created a Dictionary of Mormonese. We encourage you to bookmark it for easy access.
Another beneficial resource is our free online course, Build Bridges Not Barriers. It thoroughly explains the five pillars of our witnessing approach. It is full of lessons we have learned over the years on ways to talk with Mormons. It will help you speak the truth in love. Going through Build Bridges Not Barriers will be time well spent.
All of this sounds like a lot of work. And it is. But if you don’t put in the work, you probably won’t make much progress. In fact, more than likely, things will get worse. You will find yourself constantly talking past each other and not understanding each other.
"Are they going to bring up religion every time we see each other?"
This is a fear your child could have. And sometimes, it’s well-founded as parents have done that exact thing. Even if you haven’t done this, they still could be fearful of it happening.
Put it on the agenda.
Therefore, we highly recommend that you mutually agree on a time to have spiritual discussions. Openly state the above fear. Share that ignoring the situation or simply accepting it isn’t acceptable to you. Explain that you, too, feel like you are walking on eggshells, afraid to cause more anger and anxiety by talking about it, something you don’t want to do.
Suggest that you mutually pick a regular time (i.e. every Monday night or every other Friday night) to talk about spiritual matters. But that will be the only time you will talk about them. All the other times, such topics are off-limits.
Strictly enforce this. Especially be careful that you don’t bring up a spiritual topic except at the mutually agreed upon time.
Over the years many parents have done this. Most were reluctant at first because it seems so artificial. But when they did it, they were amazed at how it eased much of the tension.
Be clear on who should participate.
Besides setting a time, you will want to be clear on who should participate. This will vary in each situation. We encourage you to at least consider having their Mormon friend join in. This could serve a number of purposes:
- It could surprise your child that you are willing to include them.
- It could give your child some comfort having them there.
- It eliminates having their Mormon friend hear second-hand what you said.
- It is one way you can start or strengthen a relationship with them.
- The Holy Spirit could use these talks to open their eyes to biblical truth.
Agree on a topic.
Finally, you will want to mutually agree on what topic to discuss. Do this ahead of time so both of you have time to prepare. Once a topic has been chosen, you both will need to work on staying on it. If their Mormon friend is participating, you will probably have to remind them frequently about this. Most Mormons are not attuned to thinking deeply and independently on spiritual issues. They are accustomed to skipping from one topic to the next. Therefore, lovingly but firmly say that those topics could be good ones to discuss in the future. Right now, however, all have agreed to talk about this specific topic so let’s remain on it.
Try to pick a topic that deals with the major topics of sin and salvation. Not only does this bring the power of the gospel to bear; it also gives you many opportunities to share the relief and joy you have because Jesus has already done everything for you. Our Witnessing Scenarios will give you numerous ideas of topics and passages to discuss.
Throughout the process, you will need support. Your primary support must be God. As you dig into Scripture, compile a list of helpful passages.
- Isaiah 55:10-11 comforts us with the fact that God’s Word will always accomplish something.
- Romans 1:16 reminds us that the power to save is only in the gospel (the good news of Jesus living and dying for us).
- Hebrews 4:12 assures us that God’s Word can penetrate the hardest heart.
- Matthew 28:18-20 guarantees that Jesus is always with us especially as we witness.
- Isaiah 49:15-16: God’s amazing statement of love for us.
- Micah 7:8: God drowns our sins in the depths of the sea.
- Psalm 103: God separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.
In addition, cast all your cares on him in prayer. Pray that he gives you wisdom as you speak and that you speak with love. Pray that he helps you listen and understand them. Pray for your child and their Mormon companion. Pray that the Lord opens their eyes to the vast differences between the Bible and Mormonism.
Build a Prayer Support Team
Sometimes parents are reluctant to share with other Christians what has happened. Don’t hesitate. Ask a few of your trusted Christian friends to be your prayer support team. Talk to them regularly. Let them be your support.
In all this, don’t neglect your other children. Give and receive support from them.
If you have a question or just need to talk to somebody, don’t hesitate to contact us.
We also have a Facebook group of people who know what you are going through because they are or were in the same situation. Contact us to request access to this group.
It’s difficult to be patient. But if they are thinking of or already have joined the LDS church, this will usually be a lengthy process.
It takes time to see the differences.
It usually takes time for them to see the differences between the Bible and Mormonism. Many are not willing to expend such time and effort to study the differences because they want to focus on their exciting new relationship. They might have to personally experience some of the stresses Mormonism places on people before they are ready to examine it.
It takes time to untangle themselves.
It will not be easy to untangle themselves from LDS people. They will make some good friends in Mormonism. Sometimes, even after they see Mormonism’s false teachings, they have trouble leaving because of this. In addition, the longer they are connected to Mormons, the more immersed they become in LDS culture.
It takes time to admit they were wrong.
Finally, there is the element of human pride. For them to say that Mormonism is wrong is also to admit that they were wrong. That’s never easy to do.
Don't give up!
In light of all this, it might be tempting to give up and settle. Don’t do that. Find opportunities to talk about the blessings you have in Jesus. Continue to share your joy and confidence because Jesus has done everything for you. Continue to bring the powerful Word of God to them. And continue to ask the Lord to open their eyes.
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Extra Care for Your Most Important Relationships
If you've felt the tension of desperately wanting to share the truth in love with those you love most, our Friends & Family program is for you.