Most Latter-day Saints find Mormonism to be a highly structured, demanding religious environment. Their ideas, roles, and expectations are largely defined for them by their church and the culture it creates. As people transition out of Mormonism into a new kind of faith experience, one of your goals as a mentor is to help them learn how to use biblical principles to develop convictions and make life decisions for themselves.
Related Resource: Navigating Freedom and Responsibility
As Christians, we can know with confidence what to believe and how to live, based on the authority of the Bible. So, as a mentor, you want to help a former Mormon learn to apply the Bible to develop positive lifestyle convictions independent of the LDS church’s standards and culture. The core issue is the need for your friend to transfer authority from an ecclesiastical institution to God himself. This means accepting the authority of the Bible to reveal what matters to God. Help your ex-Mormon friend to understand the reasons why we accept the authority of the Bible as God’s Word.
Many of a former Mormon’s new convictions will be similar to previous lifestyle standards. But the goal is not just coming to a correct behavioral decision. It also matters how that decision is determined. We want to see people develop the skills and processes that will help them develop convictions based on the Bible, not just on what a church or mentor says is right, or on any church’s cultural expectations.
Discern between essentials and non-essentials.
Not everything in the Bible is presented with the same level of clarity or certainty. That may be unsettling to someone used to thinking in black-and-white terms. You can start by helping your friend recognize that there is a difference between essentials and non-essentials. Help them realize that not every issue has the same emphasis in BIble, and that this is okay.
Our rule of thumb is: where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where the Bible is silent, we are silent. Along with that: where the Bible speaks with less clarity or less information, we also speak less dogmatically. Of course, this approach requires that we know what the Bible says and doesn’t say. So encourage your friend to spend time reading and studying the Bible to discover which issues are definitive and which are not. It may be frustrating at times that the Bible doesn’t tell us more about a particular issue, but we can trust God that he has said what he wanted to say about any given matter.
Those issues where the Bible is not decisive are called “gray areas.” The Bible itself gives us wisdom about how to navigate those issues.
Romans 14:2-3 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.
One “gray area” in early Christianity had to do with dietary restrictions. There were two major views. Paul says: we shouldn’t divide over or condemn each other over matters like this.
Romans 14:5-6 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.
Here Paul says, in areas where the Bible does not give us one definitive standard, we should make up our minds what we will do, and pursue our conviction as from the Lord. When others make a different choice, we treat them with respect and assume the best motives.
Related Resource: The Word of Wisdom After Mormonism
Embrace new choices.
So many of the choices now available to someone leaving Mormonism for the traditional Christianity are not even matters of conviction, but mere preference. This might include which Bible translation to read, where to get involved in serving, what kind of worship music to enjoy.
Other decisions require more discernment. While there may not be a single right or wrong answer, these decisions have greater consequences for a person’s spiritual health – like what authors or websites are reliable, what TV or radio preachers to listen to, and what church to attend.
Help your mentoree become comfortable with all the choices available by talking through the pros and cons of each option. Use it as an opportunity to discuss what issues are essential versus non-essential.
Related Resource: Navigating New Freedom after Mormonism
Find liberty without legalism or license.
Christians have great freedom in lifestyle. This is not freedom to sin, but freedom from the dos and don’ts of religious regulations (Gal 5:1-4). We are no longer bound by the principle of religious law (Acts 15:10-11). This freedom doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. We are bound by a higher law of love and service (Galatians 5:13). Jesus defined that higher law in terms of two simple principles: love God and love others (Matt 22:37-40).
To help your ex-Mormon friend live in Christian liberty, you can help them steer clear of the twin pitfalls of legalism and license. Help them understand why legalism is spiritually toxic. Encourage them to pursue a right heart attitude and motivation more than just outward conformity. Coach them to avoid license. Help them see the potential dangers of rejecting all previous boundaries without thinking and praying about the ramifications of their choices. If they feel a need to experiment with previously forbidden practices, steer them toward new, biblical boundaries in those areas.
Related Resource: How to Live as a Christian
Learn to make ethical decisions.
The details of how to love God and love others are not always defined for us in every situation. So to help a person learn to live in responsible Christian liberty, teach them some of the biblical principles of decision-making that help us to decide what our convictions will be. 1 Corinthians suggests four such guidelines.
1 Corinthians 6:12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
When Paul says “everything is permissible”, scholars think he is quoting a popular phrase Christians were using to justify any kind of behavior. Paul’s response is that, while we have freedom in Christ, there are some principles that will help us make decisions about right and wrong. This verse points out two such principles:
Is it good for me? In other words, it is constructive? For example, chocolate is not forbidden in the Bible, but eating too much sugar is not good for one’s health.
Will it enslave me? Will it become a bad habit or addiction? Smoking tobacco is not expressly forbidden in the Bible, but it has the power to enslave a person.
1 Corinthians 10:23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial.
This verse adds a third principle: Is it beneficial? In other words, will doing this practice help me? There are plenty of activities that are not forbidden in the Bible, and which are not necessarily addictive or destructive. But they just aren’t beneficial.
Help your friend apply these principles to contemporary issues, like use of alcohol, coffee, sugar, junk food, tobacco, entertainment, dress, and the like, to determine his or her own convictions in matters where the Bible does not speak.
Related Resource: Sanctification – Mormonism vs. Christian
In many areas where we have freedom, one alternative is as good as another. It’s up to us to make the best decision we can, trusting God to guide us. And we live in peace with our decision until God should lead in a different direction.