Mormonism: Same Language, Different Meanings

Author Brett Kunkle Published on 09/28/2015

Brett explains how to navigate in conversation with your Mormon friends when the language is the same but the meanings are different.


How do you navigate a conversation with a Mormon when the language is the same, but the meanings are totally different? Here's the key to that conversation: Learn to ask questions. Questions are going to be the key because there's a terminology problem. We use all the same terminology, but we mean totally different things. In order to surface that in a conversation, you have to ask clarifying questions, “What do you mean by that?”

When your Mormon friends says, “I believe in God the Heavenly Father,” or, “I believe in Jesus,” or, “I believe that the Bible is the Word of God,” you have to ask, “What do you mean by ‘Jesus?’” “What do you mean by ‘the Bible is the Word of God?’ Give me more clarification.” You have to ask it again and again.

Your friends says, “Well, by ‘Jesus’ I mean Jesus born of the Virgin Mary, lived a perfect sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and then rose again. That's what I mean by ‘Jesus.’” You’re going to have to get more information. Notice, all they said is something about his earthly life. “You define Jesus in this earthly life, but tell me about Jesus pre-earthly life. What about his pre-existence?” That's where then you'll begin to surface the radical differences in meaning.

Jesus ends up being a created being, and the only way you’re going to find that out is by getting past the terminology and getting to the definitions. That's why you have to ask, “What do you mean by that?” “Can you define that, clarify that idea, explain that to me a little bit more?” That takes time. 

You have to be patient with it because it takes time to uncover those differences and to help your Mormon friends see that even though we use all the same terminology, we have completely different meanings and therefore, we have completely different Gods and completely different Jesus’. We have completely different views about Scripture. 

Make no mistake, that's a huge step. That's progress if in a conversation or few conversations you can help your Mormon friend see the radical differences. That's going to be your first step in engaging them with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. They're walking into this thinking we believe the same thing, so progress is getting them to realize we have totally different Gods. 

Then, you could point out to them that John 17:3 says, “Eternal life is knowing the one true God.” Even though we use the same terms, if you have a different God and I have a different god, we can't both be right. We can't both have eternal life, and that's what’s at stake.