Let me put this in context before I get into the meeting my husband and I had with the local sister missionaries.
A week or so ago, we ran into some missionaries while we were on a walk. They were on a Spanish-speaking mission, but took our address and names to let the English-speaking missionaries know that we were open to contact.
On Thursday, the sister missionaries showed up at our door. It was good it was the sisters, because my husband was at work, so I wouldn't have been able to invite male missionaries in. They shared a pamphlet, which they went through with me using the pictures to summarize what the pamphlet shared. It was very basic Mormon doctrine; the apostasy, the restoration, priesthood, the challenge to pray for truth. Verses taken out of context to mean things they actually don't. You know the drill.
I let them know, in the course of conversation, that my family was Mormon. Since I had a quad and other Mormon books, and my brother is on a mission, it was natural to share that information. They knew I knew at least the basics of their religion; I didn't hide that. They asked if I'd be willing to be baptized if I discovered the church to be true. I said yes, which was true; they just didn't know that I've already discovered the church to not be true.
I invited them to come back on Saturday, the 5th, when my husband would be home too. They showed up right after the second session of General Conference was done. My goal is to stay in a student-like role with them by asking them a lot of questions about what they teach and bringing Bible verses and such to their attention, in the context of asking them how those verses relate to what they're teaching. It's very easy to cause the missionaries to stop coming if you evangelize them too aggressively.
Steven is less familiar with LDS teachings and was less comfortable than me with interacting them, plus he had the baby, so he mostly listened and answered direct questions while letting me handle the actual conversation.
They shared the Book of Mormon with us. (I'm glad they didn't look at our movie rack first, since it has DNA vs. The Book of Mormon and the Bible vs. The Book of Mormon on it.) They brought us to the introduction of the Book of Mormon, and had me read the first paragraph and the last two out loud.
The first paragraph includes the claim that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel. I asked them how they think it contains the fullness if it doesn't have important LDS doctrines like temple marriage. Their answer was essentially that it contains the most important basics, like faith, repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end. I asked them if they feel that it teaches those things differently than the Bible, or if there's things about those basics that the Bible doesn't contain. One of them said she doesn't know the Bible as well as she should, but she thinks those things are a little clearer in the Book of Mormon.
I didn't point out that most of the clearest teachings in the Book of Mormon regarding those subjects are either exactly like or very similar to sections of the New Testament.
The last two paragraphs have a challenge to pray about the truth of the Book of Mormon. It says,
We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)
Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
This brought up the idea of using feelings to get an answer to prayer. I then asked a number of questions regarding this.
Q: There are a number of religions that believe in the power of prayer, and the people within these religions often feel that they've received a witness of their faith and that their religion is true. For instance, a Muslim would be sure that Islam is true. How do you think the feelings you get as a witness are different than those people from other religions get?
A: They didn't really have much of an answer. The best they could come up with was that maybe things that are good get affirmed, but that true seeking would eventually lead to full truth. And then they gave their testimony that their church really is true.
Q: There are more ways than feelings to determine truth, and things that can support faith. For instance, I have faith in God, but I have evidences, such as the Big Bang showing that the universe really began like Genesis says, to show me that its reasonable to have such faith. Do you have any evidences like this for the truth of the Book of Mormon and the church?
A: Essentially, after some more floundering, they said the fruits of the church are evidence. They then, once again, testified of the truth of the church.
Q: The Bible says that there are false spirits that can deceive. How can you know that the good feelings you get in answer to prayer are the real Spirit rather than a false Spirit deceiving you?
A: They didn't actually have much of an answer for this one, although they really tried. One of them tried to say that they didn't think a false spirit would affirm good things, but I pointed out that something that seemed good but was really false would be the perfect thing to deceive someone with. Once again, they fell back on their testimony.
I don't think they even saw the irony of the fact that they couldn't actually tell me why a testimony based on feelings was valid, but that they kept using their testimonies based on feelings to tell me that I could get a testimony based on feelings. I didn't keep challenging their answers, though, because I didn't want them to feel attacked. It was clear that they knew they'd had a hard time with the answers and maybe hadn't given good ones, because they kept telling me that I'd asked good questions, and they didn't seem confidant that the answers they'd given had been adequate. That's all I want for now; I want them questioning.
They ended, of course, by challenging us to read the Book of Mormon. I've read it before, and Steven has read some of it, but they of course still wanted us to do it. I wouldn't commit, mostly because I knew I'd be lying to them if I did. I told them we're busy, my husband is starting a new job in a couple of weeks, we're currently working on the New Testament, and I've already read it and he's read some of it; all of that is true. I didn't add that I feel that reading the Book of Mormon again is a waste of time, at least at this point in my life. The only reason I'd be reading it again is to be more familiar with it to use in evangelizing to Mormons.
I also told them that I really wanted to continue to be able to ask them questions and meet with them more, and that we'd certainly be praying. They eventually asked if they could read a little out of the Book of Mormon with us when they meet with us, and we said that would be fine.
We scheduled out our next meeting (which I've since realized will probably have to be rescheduled, since we'll have family visiting from out of town). At least I didn't scare them off with my questions that they couldn't really answer.
Next meeting, I intend to talk with them a bit about the reasons that I'm not comfortable having prayers answered by feelings alone. I'm going to point out that there are ways other than feelings to know truth; we don't need to pray about whether 2+2=4 is true, after all, and we learned ways to determine whether sources were reliable when we did research in school and none of those ways were how we felt about the source. Besides, sometimes truth hurts or doesn't feel good, so good feelings don't always accompany truth. I'm planning to share the Bible's warning that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), that loving God includes the mind (Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27), and that God's Word can be used to determine truth (Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 3:16). I'm going to explain that the Bible doesn't say anywhere that feelings alone are valid answer to prayer. I'm going to tell them that I'd like to use the other ways God gave us of determining truth, because I believe these things to be guided by prayer and that all truth is God's truth, and that I want to use those other ways to determine truth.
To my Christian readers, prayers would be appreciated. This is the first time I've done this with missionaries, and my husband hasn't really evangelized at all, so this is new territory for us. Pray that, at the least, we will plant good seeds, and that these seeds might lead to salvation at some point.