Here is how Mormonism pictures judgment day. “Stored in our body and mind is a complete history of everything we have done. President John Taylor taught this truth: ‘[The individual] himself tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. . .That record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind, that record that cannot lie will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who sit as judges” (Gospel Principles, p. 271).
At the grassroots level, it is common to hear Mormons talk about how this will be a terrible experience. Many talk about how they will sit in a room packed with people as a videotape of their entire life, including all their thoughts, will be broadcast for all to see. judgment day, like many things in Mormonism, is a painful process for Mormons to endure.
How they are judged depends entirely on what they have done. One of their prophets said, “Our character, as Latter-day Saints, should be preserved inviolate, at whatever cost or sacrifice. Character, approved of God is worth securing, even at the expense of a life-time of constant self-denial. While thus living we may look forward. . .with full assurance that. . .we shall be crowned with the sons and daughters of God, and possess the wealth and glory of a Celestial kingdom” (Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow, p. 124-5). Statements like this cause most Mormons to view judgment day with great uncertainty.
Against this background of their uncomfortableness and uncertainty, our eagerness and confidence regarding judgment day will stand out in sharp contrast. We can look forward confidently and eagerly to it because we know we won’t be condemned. Because Jesus has washed all our sins away, we know God will not bring a single charge against us. He will not bring up one instance of when we failed him. Instead of condemning us, he will commend us – without reservation. Neither will there be any hesitation on his part or any qualifications in his verdict. (See Jesus’ treatment of the sheep in Matthew 25:34-40. Note how he doesn’t bring up even one sin. Also notice how the believers are unaware of the good works they had done. Their focus was on Christ, not on themselves.)
Because of Jesus, we can be like defendants who know they have an air-tight case and can’t wait to have their day in court to prove it. Judgment day will be the best day of our lives – because not only will we be publicly acquitted of all our sins, but all our problems and pain will become things of the past. Not only that, we will immediately begin enjoying an eternity of unending joy in the presence of God and his eternal family of believers. What a day it will be!
There’s a good chance your Mormon friends have never heard anyone talk like this about judgment day. As always, you will want to focus the discussion on the reason for your confidence, namely Jesus. Base your remarks on John 3: 15-18.
“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Even though Jesus doesn’t use the word “judge,” the repeated use of the word “condemn” shows that judgment is his focus. After establishing that the topic is indeed judgment, point out the absence of any mention of works. It’s not about works; it’s all about belief. (Jesus uses “believe” no less than five times.)
Then go back to verse 15 and tie it in with verse 14 to show them what faith consists of. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Verse 14 refers to the incident recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. The key point is that the people only had to look at the bronze snake to be saved. They didn’t have to do any works. Likewise, we are saved by looking at Jesus and his perfect work for us. Faith is nothing more and nothing less than trusting in Jesus’ works. (When Mormons talk about believing in Jesus, they usually don’t talk about trusting in his substitutionary work. They rather use it to indicate they believe Jesus existed or believe that his commands are good.)
They might quickly point out passages about our being judged by works. In this, they are correct. The Bible consistently speaks about judgment based on works. What we need to remember, however, is that works are the evidence of faith, as James emphasizes, “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). This view of works as evidence fits in well with the picture of judgment day since the presenting of evidence is a key ingredient in any trial. It’s important, therefore, to be clear that the Bible says we will be judged by our works, so when they bring it up, you aren’t surprised. Rather than being caught off-guard, be prepared to show them how the Bible says works are the evidence of faith. Biblical teaching can be summarized by saying we are saved by faith and judged by works.
The relationship between faith and works is one you will regularly revisit with the missionaries since it is so core to their thinking. One key difference between Mormonism and the Bible is that Mormonism makes works an essential part of faith, while the Bible keeps works separate from faith but closely connected to it. Works are the results and fruits of faith. Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone. Be clear on this point yourself and then clearly convey it to them.