Caveat: Mormonism is a false religion. Many have been deceived with a belief system that includes Jesus Christ plus the revelation that came through Joseph Smith. But they do some things so well, and we as Christians would be wise to emulate them. Let me explain.
At age fifteen, my parents divorced, I moved from my childhood home to an apartment with my father. Every semblance of my former life was over. Even my Methodist church, where I’d gone since a baby, didn’t reach out to me. Perhaps it was my small town’s gossip mill, but since my parents both had friends at church, when they split, the church split from us.
Fifteen. I wasn’t old enough to drive, but vulnerable enough to become a wayward girl — if the right circumstances happened. Fortunately, I had three girlfriends who became extra encouraging during this awful season of adjustment. They invited me to their homes, they studied with me after school, they were good listeners.
It was a few months into my new life, when they invited me to church — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I recognized my seventh grade English teacher, and my eighth grade History teacher in the gathering. My girlfriends sat with me, or I should say, we sat with their families. Large families, with lots of kids — many pregnant young moms with toddlers at their sides. But the dads were always close by to help.
I was fascinated at the togetherness — families, couples, singles, teens, all with helpfulness abounding. After church I listened to the mom group (Relief Society) organizing meals for several families, while another set of women volunteered to do the hospital service —delivering sandwiches and cookies to those in waiting rooms and bringing a small goodie bag to the one hospitalized. The men were working on several projects themselves. Brother Hank needed help with his roof. It would be done by five volunteers that week. Someone else noted that even though Brother Steve wasn’t there, they knew his car had broken down, Brother Joe would head over with his tools on Monday.
I kept coming back to church. I’d lost my own family, but I was surrounded by dozens of intact families. They enjoyed church, and fellowship meant helping others — knowing that everyone eventually needs help.
Their church had been constructed with their own labor and the women cared for the flower beds, while teen boys mowed the lawn. My three friends were learning church doctrine before school during a 6 am class three days a week. They also enjoyed helping with the food preparation and the classes taught by the older moms on food preservation and home management (read: caring for lots of kids, while simultaneously cooking three meals a day on a strict budget).
Yes, the Mormons cared for their own and made sure their offspring were truly indoctrinated into the tenets of their beliefs. Oh sure, there were a few slackers, but they were always included in activities and encouraged to keep coming.
The Mormon moms were often elementary school classroom helpers. Mormon dads were the ones lending a hand on those community volunteer efforts. It was all about making new connections.
They were on the lookout for those who might become Mormons. If a family moved into the neighborhood, it wasn’t just a plate of cookies and a warm welcome — it was an offer to help unpack, bring dinner for the whole family several times in the first weeks, and getting to know them by name. While many Mormons are born into the religion, others have been drawn in through these acts of kindness and generosity.
And let’s be honest, when you want family and the closeness of fellowship, the Mormons offer both. In a couple years I graduated and moved away. My three girlfriends all eventually married, had large families, and have remained married. They embrace their Mormon lifestyle. I never did. But I will always remember their support.
My father-in-law, a devout conservative Baptist, lamented that the Christians he knew lacked the interest in serving that would draw people in like the Mormons. He was fascinated by their approach and admired their steadfast conservatism. He wondered how they could be so off-base spiritually, but so successful in proselytizing.
There are over 16.3 million Mormon members worldwide, and 2.4 billion Christians. Sadly, unless Mormons truly honor Christ alone, all their amazing works are in vain, and they remain unsaved and condemned. But I wonder if Christians could embrace the Mormon’s all-out helpfulness, what a difference it would make in our homes and communities — and perhaps then, Christians could proselytize their Mormon friends and save them.
Karen Farris saw the need to help underserved kids while serving in a youth ministry that gave her the opportunity to visit rural schools on the Olympic Peninsula. She now volunteers her time grant writing to bring resources to kids in need. She also shares stories of faith in action for those needing a dose of hope on her weekly blog, Friday Tidings.www.fridaytidings.com