Almost everybody who has spent any time talking with Mormons has been told this. Most find it extremely frustrating but are also in a quandary wondering how to respond.
The first point needing emphasis is that most Mormons are not being deceptive. It is something they sincerely believe! Many don’t know what Christians believe because they have never had productive talks with them. They think Christians also believe they must be good before God will forgive them. Compounding the issue is the fact that Mormonism’s differing definitions of common theological words confuse not only Christians but also Mormons. If you lose sight of this, you will think they are intentionally deceptive – a feeling that will negatively impact your response.
The second point which needs emphasis is the futility of responding by saying, “No, you’re not.” It creates more fire than light; it builds a barrier rather than a bridge.
Over the years, and after a lot of experimentation (and failures!), we have discovered that the following often leads to a productive conversation.
Instead of trying to refute it, accept it at face value. Respond by saying, “I’m so happy to hear this! Just so we are clear. I want to tell you what I hear when you say you are a Christian, just like me. I hear that you believe you don’t have to do anything to be worthy in God’s sight because Jesus has already done everything for you. Not only did he die for all your sins, but he also kept all the commandments perfectly for you. This means you are assured you will be living with Heavenly Father for all eternity without having to receive any temple ordinances.”
Put it in your own words. The point you want to make is that, for you, the essence of being a Christian is trusting that Jesus did it all for us.
Your tone of voice will be vitally important. You will want to come off as puzzled, maybe even confused. You will want to be figuratively scratching your head. Any hint of aggression or arrogance will instantaneously create a barrier.
Usually, Mormons reply by saying this is not what they meant. This then opens the door to discussing the differences – especially regarding salvation – between Mormonism and Christianity.
In other words, you can turn a seeming obstacle that many people try to avoid into a wonderful opportunity to share Jesus with them.