One of the more profound insights former Mormons have 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 that many hear is that their entire life’s focus and work are worthless. This can be devastating.
Here’s a simple analogy. Suppose I had spent quite a few hours doing my taxes. I gathered all my receipts. I scoured through all my payments in search of every last deduction. I read up on the new tax laws. I downloaded all the forms and painstakingly filled 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 filed our taxes! I doubt if my first reaction will be one of joy – even though the work has been all done.
Now multiply it 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 it is such a red flag word for many Mormons.
So, what should we do? Should we not talk about our free salvation? This obviously is not the solution. Refraining from talking about it destroys our entire message.
What we can do, however, 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. She would have approached me much more gently.
This is what we need to do. A gentle approach is called for. We need to be aware there is a good chance the true gospel will, at first, be devastating to them. Just acknowledging the fact with them will go a long way. Probably the worst mistake we can make is acting shocked they don’t immediately rejoice when they hear the gospel.
After broaching the subject of Christ’s doing everything for us, 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 it. 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. This 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 our awareness to them is a loving thing to do.