You are quite right to be concerned about your daughter's involvement with the Mormons. Based on the experiences of other parents, and on my experience with the church, the church will gradually become a surrogate family for her, and thus weaken your relationship with her. If she really gets involved in it (and they will pressure her to become more "active") she will spend more and more time on church activities, associate more and more with her fellow Mormons, and have less and less to talk with you about, since you cannot possibly "understand" her new spirituality. Ultimately she will be taught that her position in heaven will depend on whether she marries a good Mormon man in the temple, and she will be pressured to do so. Since only good Mormons are allowed into the temple, you (and all her non-Mormon family members and friends) will not be invited to the wedding.
Often the interest in Mormonism is a romantic friendship with a Mormon. If that is the case, try to get her to look at the article "In Love With A Mormon". It is a collection of comments from people who joined the Mormon church because they were in love with a Mormon, and who later regretted it very much.
The old saying, You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink! applies also to Mormons: You can lead a Saint to facts, but you can't make her think! In other words, unless you can get her really to examine facts about Mormonism with a truly open mind, there is little hope of changing her thinking. Of course, the church leaders specifically warn Mormons against doing that: it puts them into Satan's clutches. (For my response to that claim, see my article "Identifying When Something Is From Satan".)
Often a daughter has already cut off communication. However, your ONLY chance in having any influence with her is if you can communicate with her. Of course she can refuse absolutely to have any contact with you, and you cannot control that absolutely, but you can certainly do everything possible to keep communication open on your part. This may take some back-pedaling and even some apologizing (even though you may not feel you have anything at all to apologize for!).
She will be more willing to communicate with you (listen to you) if you assure her (in the most loving way possible) that:
It may go against all your instincts to do this, but I think it is the best hope. There are excellent reasons for each of these.
- you realize she is an adult, and has the absolute right to make her own decisions about her life;
- you love her unconditionally and always will, no matter what;
- you will not criticize or challenge her religious beliefs, even though you personally do not share them;
- you want her to feel that she is a loved part of the family, and that her family is a loved part of her life.
THEN - once you have mended your personal relationship, you may be able to discuss religion - gradually, and in a non-argumentative, non-threatening, non-judgmental way. The attitude, or tone, is vitally important, because if she suspects that you are trying to argue or to judge, she will likely cut off all discussion.
The key to getting a Mormon to examine Mormonism is to get the Mormon to try to explain it to an open-minded person. As one exmormon put it, he said that he had had great success in de-converting Mormons by begging them, "Please, help me to understand! I would like to believe it, but it just doesn't make sense to me! Help me!"
Your request would be "Please help me to understand your beliefs, so that I can understand your approach to life!" The new convert (or even the life-long Mormon who just goes along but hasn't really thought much about it) will probably very quickly suggest a meeting with the missionaries. That accomplishes nothing, of course, unless you can insist that the person you are trying to influence is there, to hear your concerns and your questions, and to see how the missionaries can't quite give satisfactory answers. Or one could insist that the Mormon herself explain and answer questions.
Of course you must be prepared, and you must know more about Mormonism than she does - especially the things that she does not know. You will have to do a lot of research and take notes. And you can tell her that you are doing this SO THAT you can understand her beliefs. "But some things need more explanation... It appears there is a problem, so maybe you can clear it up for me...." You don't need to tell her that your information is coming from "anti-Mormon" sources - use the MORMON sources that the "anti-Mormons" are quoting.
You can perhaps find out how open-minded she is by asking her to answer very frankly the question: "How important is it to you that the Mormon claims are really true? Would it matter at all to you if, in fact, they were not true?" The answer will likely be that they ARE true! But the question is not whether they are true or not, but whether it matters to her. Anything but an affirmative answer would show a callous (and sinful, in the Mormon view) disregard of "truth" - she should look up "truth" in the index to the Doctrine and Covenants, especially 50:17-18; 93:36, 39; 107:84. Make her spell out the logical conclusion: "Then, since it IS important to you whether Mormonism is really true, I assume that if there were conclusive evidence showing that it is NOT true, you would want to know about it?" At this point she will undoubtedly deny the existence of any such evidence. But you must insist that you are posing a hypothetical, a "what if?" Perhaps an analogy would be appropriate, like the following: suppose you are engaged to be married to a wonderful man. Then someone tells you that they know this man well, that he has a criminal record for fraud, tax evasion, assault and battery, theft, and bigamy, and that they can show you his criminal record. WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE IT? Would you want to check it out? Would you want to hear what his former wives had to say about him? The question is not whether you would have to BELIEVE all of the terrible things being said about him, but would you want to see it, and judge for yourself?
The missionaries encourage investigators to read the Book of Mormon, and then to pray to God to find out whether it is true. Notice that one is supposed to read the book BEFORE deciding whether it is true or not. That only makes sense - you can't know whether something is true or false before you read it. It's the same with any book or article, including those which deal with Mormonism. You must read the material before you can honestly decide whether it is true or not.
The missionaries and their church generally warn investigators and members not to read anything that is critical of the church, especially by "apostates" (people who have left the church). It's much like the car salesman who wants to sell you Brand X car - he doesn't want you to talk to people who sell Brand Y, and especially he doesn't want you to talk to former owners of Brand X who didn't like that car and bought some other brand after getting rid of their Brand X. But isn't it amazing that careful automobile buyers, before spending several thousand dollars, would quite naturally want to find out about what problems others had with Brand X, but in choosing a religion upon which they will base their entire life pattern, they will not do the same thing? The mere fact that the salesman (the missionary) doesn't want you to talk to anyone but satisfied customers should make one suspicious that they are trying to hide something. And there are hundreds of stories by people who left Mormonism, which will show some of the negative side of things, at "Recovery From Mormonism" - highly recommended reading for anyone who thinks that Mormonism is so wonderful.
And some Mormon leaders have encouraged such examination. Orson Pratt, an early apostle, said:"The Book of Mormon must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions. The nature of the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; If false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. If, after a rigid examination, it be found imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of deception, and to be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion may be exposed and silenced by strong and powerful arguments by evidences adduced from scripture and reason." (Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Liverpool, 1851, pp. 1,2)Joseph Fielding Smith, a recent president of the church, said:"If Joseph [Smith] was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false." Joseph Fielding Smith (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1 pp 188-189).And even Mormon scriptures instruct Mormons to confront "anti-Mormon" information: "Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord. " (D&C 71:7-10).
If you openly challenge her and her belief system, she will likely just tune you out. Your best hope of getting her to examine her beliefs is if she feels that in doing so she is helping you to understand them. So I suggest that you maintain an open-minded attitude, without stating your conclusions (that such-and-such doctrine is false), but just continue to ask sincere questions. Many Mormons have seen the falsity of it only in the process of defending it to a non-Mormon (I am an example - that's how I came to leave the church).
Another suggestion: don't try to disprove Mormonism by proving that some form of Christianity is true. First, it is unnecessary for you to take on that burden, and will make your task more difficult. Mormonism can be proven false without any reference to Christianity. My article "To Those Who Are Investigating Mormonism" is a summary of the major problems with Mormonism, and it makes no reference to Christianity or Christian doctrine. Second, the Mormons (especially Mormon missionaries) are very skillful in using the Bible to prove that orthodox Christianity is false. Mormons are also taught that the Bible contains errors, and thus cannot be trusted if it contradicts Mormon doctrine. So I suggest that you leave the Bible (and traditional Christian doctrine) out of the discussions.
My reasons for giving that advice are not because I personally am not Christian. I would be entirely in favor of getting people out of Mormonism if we could convince them that some form of Christianity is true. But it makes the job so much harder to take that tactic. I had a long discussion about this with a Christian minister (former Mormon) who runs a ministry to Mormons, and he agreed with me completely. His strategy was first to show them that Mormonism is false, based on Mormon-produced materials, without mentioning traditional Christianity. Only after they had begun to question Mormonism did he bring in the Bible and Christian doctrines.
Many Mormons believe that the only source of damaging information about Mormonism is the "lies and distortions" of "anti-Mormons." In fact, however, many Mormons begin to have doubts by reading materials which are completely pro-Mormon. I know people who have left the church after reading the Doctrine and Covenants completely through. Others have had their eyes opened by reading the sermons of early Mormon leaders in the 26 volumes of the Journal of Discourses. I know Mormons who began to doubt by reading the early revelations in the Book of Commandments, and then seeing that they had been drastically altered when published later in the Doctrine and Covenants.
There is a lot of information that has nothing directly to do with Mormonism that still might cause a Mormon to "stop and think": books on history, science, anthropology, and other religions. A list of some of these books is at "Books For Mormons: NON-'Anti-Mormon' Readings".
You might begin by asking her to help you with some of the problems I list in my article "To Those Who Are Investigating Mormonism".
You may have to educate yourself considerably in Mormonism to do this, which will mean delving into a lot of crazy stuff. Fortunately, much of it is available on the internet.
It might be easier if you delve deeply into just one area and become an "expert" there, rather than getting a superficial knowledge of a lot of areas. Suggestions about where Mormonism is very vulnerable:
An excellent source is A Friendly Discussion: Mormonism Pro and Con by Ed Bliss, a concise, conversational summary of the problems with Mormon beliefs.
- Joseph Smith's "First Vision" accounts (here)
- The "Book of Abraham" (here)
- Joseph Smith's lying about polygamy (here)
- The Masonic origin of the Mormon temple ceremony (here)
- The church's cover-up of its history (here)
- Major changes to the revelations as approved by God in the Book of Commandments and their present versions in the Doctrine and Covenants (see the comparison here.)
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that your questions and comments NOT sound argumentative, but simply, "Hm, for some reason I just can't see how that makes sense." This, by the way, is a tremendous tool for getting people to see the weaknesses in their arguments. I learned it many years ago from a top attorney who was a long-time member of our school board. He was a very self-deprecating man, not at all impressive, although he had won a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court. I watched him again and again at board meetings, saying in his shy sort of drawl, with an almost embarrassed look, "Well, I guess I really am dense, but I am having a very hard time seeing what you are proposing here." And in trying to explain the point to him, with his simple questions, it soon became apparent that what he was questioning really did not make sense. And a key element of this tactic is NOT to draw the conclusion yourself - you leave it hanging. Let the others draw the conclusion. Maybe not even during the discussion, but hours or even days later.
It may be that one of the main attractions for her is the kind of good lives the Mormons generally lead - no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no premarital sex, no bad language, respect for family, modesty in dress, etc. Certainly there are great advantages to that kind of "clean living." You might point out to her however that one does not have to become a Mormon in order to live that kind of life. Many people do so without being Mormons, and even without following any particular religion.
Another attraction for her may be the warmth and friendship she feels among her Mormon friends. That is a strong attraction, especially for someone who has few friends. And the Mormons can be very warm and friendly. Until you question or criticize their religious doctrines. In other words, as long as you are a potential convert, they will lavish you with friendship and attention. But once you reject Mormonism, they seem not to want to be your friend any more. You might suggest that she try this experiment: say something like this to her Mormon friends: "I appreciate your friendship and I admire and respect you for the kind of life you lead. I would very much like to continue to be your friend, because I share many of your attitudes toward how people should live. However, I am not interested in becoming a Mormon, for various reasons, and I am not interested in discussing religion with you. I hope our friendship can continue based on the many things which we do have in common and our mutual like of each other."
If she is unwilling to make this test, it will show that she realizes that her so-called friends will dump her unless she joins the church. If she makes the test and the Mormon kids say, "hey, that's OK - we'll be friends anyway" then it relieves her from the pressure to join the church. If the Mormons dump her, then it will show her that they were not really friends at all.
I also suggest that she read the article by a Mormon Ph.D. "Mormon Women, Prozac and Therapy" about the emotional damage that Mormonism can inflict on women.
In selecting material to discuss, you might have best luck with those areas in which there is already some doubt or misgiving.
It may be of some slight consolation to you to know that the Mormon church has a very difficult time keeping converts. It is a major demand on missionaries' time to try to "reactivate" those who converted quickly and then dropped out. According to unofficial Mormon sources, 50% of all converts in the U.S. are no longer active one year after their baptism. In other countries the figure is 75%. It seems that the more experience one has in the church, and the more one studies its doctrines and history, the more likely one will come to the realization that it is not what it claims to be. The church also acknowledges that 40% of all missionaries leave the church after returning from their missions. There are now many more inactive or former Mormons than there are active members. The Internet is undoubtedly having a tremendous impact on the Mormon ability to retain members - information is too easy to obtain.
A tactic I had never thought of before appeared in a novel I just finished reading. One character was discussing religion with another character, and trying to get him to be open minded. She did a little sleight-of-hand trick and asked him what he had seen. She then showed him that he was mistaken. "Have you ever been mistaken about something before?" Of course! "And you have just demonstrated that you can still be mistaken. Perhaps you are also mistaken about the facts you base your religion on? You will have to admit that possibility, won't you?"
That's a great opener, I think: "Have you ever been mistaken about something?" Anything - whether it was a friend who turned out not to be a real friend, or something they bought that was supposed to be so wonderful but was a lemon, or relying on some promise that wasn't kept.
And how did one find out about the mistake? By listening to the other side, to contrary facts, and then verifying them yourself. But how do the Mormons say you should verify any facts? "Ask God, and if you feel good, that's the Holy Spirit!" (Unless the feeling you get is that the Mormons are lying - then they will tell you that's Satan, of course! - for that argument, see my article "Identifying When Something Is From Satan".)
It should be alarm-bells loud and clear when somebody who is trying to sell you something says only to read the advertising and NOT check "Consumer Reports"!
The "Consumer Reports" tactic does work, as demonstrated by this true story: the son of non-Mormon parents had just married in the temple the month previous. His dad took him on a weekend fishing trip. The dad had done his Internet research on Mormonism. As they drove to the lake, the father said that he was thinking about buying a new pickup truck. I forget the name the actual make of truck - I'll call it a "Lightning." He knew that his son's favorite make was a Toyota. The son was surprised and shocked. He said that the Consumer Reports on the Lightning were bad, that there were lots of problems with it. The dad replied that he hadn't bothered to check Consumer Reports because the Lightning dealer had told him it was a good truck, and he felt good about the idea of a Lightning. "But Dad! You should always check Consumer Reports before you buy a truck!" "How about before you join a church?" The son got the point. So they fished, and they talked all weekend about what the father had learned about Mormonism. When the son got back home, he told his new wife that he was leaving the church. She broke down in sobs, called her mother, and the mother came right over and moved her out.
In many people's view, including many experts on religious cults, Mormonism exhibits many characteristics of a cult. For effective techniques in reaching those in such organizations, I highly recommend the book by Steve Hassan Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves. Hassan has developed very successful techniques for helping people to get out of mind-controlling organizations. His website is at FreedomOfMind.com. To see a checklist for helping to identify cults and cult-like organizations, see the links here.
Some time ago, because I was getting so many requests for advice from people who were losing their children to Mormonism, I started an online discussion and support group. Since the group is for the discussion of matters that most people feel are personal and confidential, it is not an "open" list, where anyone can drop in and "lurk." To try to ensure that all the subscribers to the list are sincerely interested in helping each other, and are in the kind of situation for which the list was set up, I ask all potential subscribers to e-mail me privately. If you feel that you would benefit from participation in such a group, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with just a paragraph or two about yourself and your situation, and how you feel the group can help you, or how you can help the group. Please include your real name, address, and telephone number. If you know someone personally who is already a subscriber (who may have referred you to the list, for example), please mention that. I will add your name to the subscriber list as soon as possible (usually within 24 hours). These e-mails will be held in strictest confidence - the information they contain is never divulged to anyone - but there is no other way to try to keep the list from being invaded by those who do not belong there and who would invade the discussions.