The journey out of Mormonism includes a lot of confusion about doctrine. Certain doctrinal issues are especially difficult for former Latter-day Saints to understand or accept. Be prepared to provide clear biblical answers to these issues, but also be wise about how you help former Mormons to think about them.
Understanding levels of certainty
To begin with, former Mormons should understand that not every doctrine has the same importance to the Christian faith, and that not every doctrine has the same level of authority or certainty based on the Bible. Some doctrines are absolutely essential to the Christian faith. Others are important, but Bible-believing Christians will disagree. The level of disagreement can be more or less vigorous, depending on how central that doctrine is the basic Christianity, and how clear and complete the Bible’s statements are about it. On the most definitive issues, all true Christians need to agree. On the secondary matters, we can agree to disagree, while still holding our own convictions.
Trusting the Bible
LDS are taught that the Bible has been corrupted and can’t be trusted. But since the Bible is the ultimate source of authority for Christians, help former Mormons understand the various types of evidence that show why it can be trusted. Help them see how the Bible is not just another religious book, and why it is valid to give it the final say about what we believe and how we live. Once this issue is settled, it makes the other issues easier because we can appeal to what God has revealed in the Bible.
Help former Mormons understand that there are different interpretations and applications of the Bible, and that this is okay. Give them some guidance on how to test different interpretations by looking at Bible verses in context. They will need to learn how to differentiate between the Bible itself (which has ultimate authority) and people’s applications of the Bible (which don’t have the same level of authority). Encourage them not to rely on any human authority to tell them what the Bible means, but to test every claim against the Bible itself, read in context.
Accepting the Trinity
The Trinity is one of the most challenging and confusing doctrines for former Mormons. Help them see that we don’t have to fully grasp how God can be one being in three persons in order to affirm it as the biblical teaching. Explain how the Trinity is not something anyone would make up, but that we believe it because it is the only view of God that takes all the biblical data seriously. Be careful about how you use analogies (“The Trinity is like…”) because they all break down at some point and often reinforce unbiblical ideas. Point out that if God is infinite and we are finite, we should expect there to be aspects of his nature that are simply incomprehensible to us, and that the proper response is to humbly bow in amazed worship to him.
Since grace is minimized in Mormonism, you can help former Mormons understand grace by showing them examples of God’s unconditional gifts from the Bible and from life. Help them not only to understand grace, but to learn to live in it and relish it daily, and to model grace toward others.
Since salvation is by faith, not by works, former Mormons will have questions about the appropriate role of good works. Help them see how important it is to live to honor God, but that our good works are the result, not the cause, of our salvation. Because God has made us new creations in Christ, we have a new purpose and live a new way. A true understanding of grace motivates us, not to sin, but to live lives that please God.
Re-Visioning the Church
Mormons see the idea of “church” in terms of a human institution with all its activities. Help them think of church, not just in institutional terms, but as a family, a body, and a flock. Show them that Christian churches are not all in competition with each other to be the “One True Church”, but share tremendous unity around the core doctrines of historic Christianity. Help them see themselves as a part of the universal church, joined as one with all those throughout all time and in all places who likewise have trusted in Jesus. Point them to the beauty of the family of God, knowing that all earthly distinctions will be erased when all of God’s people are gathered into heaven.
When it comes to the local church, it may be good to help a former Mormon think through the biblical purposes of the church. This will help them avoid comparing what a local congregation has to offer with the activities of the LDS church.
Letting go of the pre-existence
Help former Mormons see that, while the story of the pre-existence might have emotional appeal, the concept is not biblical. The idea that some are rewarded in this life for being more valiant in the pre-existence perpetuates the idea of worthiness and merit versus grace. We came into being when God created us in our mother’s womb. The story of salvation begins not with the pre-existence of spirit human beings, but with God, who pre-exists everything.
Coming to grips with hell
Because Mormonism envisions almost everyone going to some level of heaven, the more robust and threatening hell of the Bible is difficult for many former Mormons. This is especially so in light of the inevitable question: are my Mormon parents and grandparents in hell? Remind them that Jesus talked more about hell than any other biblical figure. Make sure they understand that Christians do not relish the idea of hell or take delight in people’s torment. But God’s holiness and justice, in light of the gravity of human sin, requires some form of consequences for our rebellion against God.
As your ex-Mormon friend grapples with new doctrines, be patient. Give them a lot of latitude. Don’t push them or take an authoritarian stance, even about the most essential truths. Be available to answer questions. Help them fit new ideas into the new biblical narrative and worldview they are processing. Welcome them and include them even as they are sorting out what they believe and why.