Two things which always need to be emphasized to Mormons are the extent and the seriousness of sin. One way to do this is by looking at the following three passages, focusing on what they say sin has done to people.
Nobody has done good
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
These verses are unfamiliar to most Mormons. A search on chuchofjesuschrist.org reveals that these verses has never been used in a General Conference talk or explained in a manual. This is not surprising seeing that one of the basic premises of Mormonism is that people, as God’s spirit children, are basically good.
The point to emphasize is how much sin has corrupted Most Mormons won’t understand the full significance of Romans 3:10-12 so take time to explain it. Point out that it doesn’t say none are perfect; it says nobody does good. This is much stronger. Emphasize how all-encompassing the statement is: nobody does good. Sin has so corrupted mankind that all have become unprofitable (The NIV’s translation of “worthless” is even better.) Sin’s corruption is not partial. It is thorough.
The false idea that people are naturally good has sunk its roots deep into Mormon hearts. Mormons will have great difficulty letting go of this thought. Therefore, be prepared for them to try and brush off the significance of this passage. Don’t let them off the hook.
Sin enslaves us
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”
The Greek word for servant is literally slave. Talk about how slaves have no freedom; how they must do their master’s will. You could also bring in the idea of addiction – how sin addicts us. Emphasize how powerfully sin controls people.
Jesus talks generally, “whosoever”. He isn’t talking about the worse sinners or those who commit sins we consider heinous. The context also emphasizes how all-inclusive it is. Jesus says this to the Pharisees – people who were outwardly very moral and religious.
There is a sobering illustration about how all types of sin enslave. During the war in Cambodia, the Communists had a practice which kept their prisoners effectively bound. When they marched them through the jungle, they would thread a fish line through the right palms of each person. This effectively kept anybody from running away. If anybody tried to break away, it would cause excruciating pain for all. Likewise, sin doesn’t need to bind people with the large chains of adultery and murder. It can just as effectively bind them with the fish lines of greed or jealous or worry.
Sin makes us spiritually dead
“Even when we were dead in sins”
Even though Mormonism talks about spiritual death, most Mormons have never thought through what this means. We can use their own writings to show them its seriousness. Here is a portion of the first reference which comes up on churchofjesuschrist.org for spiritually dead.
- Separation from God and his influences; to die as to things pertaining to righteousness. Lucifer and a third part of the hosts of heaven suffered a spiritual death when they were cast out of heaven (D&C 29:36–37).
- Spiritual death was introduced into the world by the fall of Adam (Moses 6:48). Mortals with evil thoughts, words, and works are spiritually dead while still alive on earth (1 Tim. 5:6).
Emphasize that, according to their own website, spiritual death means “to die as to things pertaining to righteousness”. Ask them what dying means. Can somebody who died to righteous things do anything righteous? Compare it with people who have died physically. What can a dead person do?
Then go to the second paragraph to make the point that they, according to Mormonism’s own definition, are spiritually dead. Ask them if they ever have evil thoughts or speak evil words. You could refer to Matthew 5:21-30 where Jesus talks about words which kill and thoughts which are adulterous.
There are many other passages you can use. Whatever ones you use, be sure you make them wrestle with what the passages say rather than quickly discounting them. Let the power of God’s law work on them to show them the trouble they are in. Hopefully this will make them eager to hear the good news of a salvation based on Jesus’ work and not on their works. (But don’t expect them to show you their eagerness.)