The parable of the wedding guest in Matthew 22:1-13 is an effective passage to use to show the eternal consequences of sin. It is especially effective because it is only one of three places where the King James Version used the phrase “outer darkness” – a phrase that, in Mormonism, conveys the idea of an eternal and permanent hell. (The other two places are Matthew 8:12 and 25:30.)
The wedding feast obviously refers to heaven. Verses 11-13 contain the key thought, namely, that the wedding garment is essential for admission into heaven. The wedding garment and what is represents is where you will want to focus the discussion. In the rare instances when Mormonism addresses this parable, it equates the wedding garment with people’s own goodness and righteousness.
Mormonism’s interpretation, however, doesn’t square with the culture of the day, neither with the parable itself, nor with the rest of the Bible. The parable deals with the wedding of a king’s son. In biblical culture, it was customary for kings to supply the wedding garments for their guests! That Jesus was thinking of this custom is evident from verses 9-10. The people who are gathered off the streets would have had no time, and probably no means, to get dressed up. It would be similar if the president told his staff to bring in some homeless people for a state dinner. (Note also how the mention of “the bad” in verse 10 contradicts Mormonism’s interpretation.) The parable is not about our worthiness, but about God’s amazing love! The people didn’t do anything to be invited to the feast. Neither did they buy their own wedding clothes. God’s amazing love is the first point you will want to emphasize.
In regard to the wedding garment, you could also reference Isaiah 61:10.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”
The second point to emphasize is that the consequence of not wearing the wedding garment is being cast into outer darkness; in other words, into an eternal hell. It has been our experience that most Mormons won’t disagree – they think of outer darkness as the permanent hell of Mormonism. But don’t assume they will pick up on the fact that not wearing the wedding garment results in outer darkness. Be sure to stress it with them.
The third point centers on the act of not wearing the wedding garment. Talk about how the refusal infuriated the king. How he was insulted by it. How it was nothing less than a slap in his face. Then transition to the lesson Jesus is teaching: the refusal of God’s gift of the robe of righteousness (Is. 61:10) so infuriates him that he sends to hell all those who refuse it. “It is not only the height of folly, it is supreme wickedness, when man, the tiny creature, the lost sinner, endeavors to work out his own salvation and rejects the free grace of God in Christ Jesus.” (Laetsch, Jeremiah, p. 39).
They might quickly respond by saying they agree since Mormonism does talk about God’s grace and the importance of Jesus’ atonement. It is vitally important to remember that we can’t charge Mormonism with being solely a works-based religion. Mormonism is a grace-plus religion. What we need to do is to show them that adding any of their own “goodness’ to Jesus’ righteousness ruins everything.
Point them again to verse 10. It not only talks about both good and bad; it also leaves no time for them to become worthy or do anything. At this point, we would encourage you to bring in another Bible passage, Romans 11:6.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
It will be very important that you spend time making the third point. Let them wrestle with the parable. Don’t let them brush away Romans 11:6. If they bring up a passage like James 2:26 which says faith without works is dead, don’t worry. Tell them you would love to discuss it, but right now you are curious how they understand Romans 11:6. (Remember that most Mormons aren’t accustomed to doing critical thinking when it comes to the Bible and therefore probably won’t have an answer.)
The article, “Deadliness of Grace Plus” gives additional illustrations of this important point.
It would be well for you to conclude the discussion with a heartfelt testimony of your assurance that you will live with heavenly Father in eternity solely because of what Jesus has done for you. (It is more effective to talk about living with heavenly Father than going to heaven because Mormonism teaches that almost everybody goes to heaven.)