Getting past the title and the cover was the greatest hurdle to reaching the treasure inside David L. Rowe’s book, I Love Mormons: A New Way to Share Christ with Latter-day Saints. Rowe claims to know the best way to communicate the gospel to LDS people. He says that until now, most Christians have tried to prove that Mormon doctrine is wrong. Problem was, no one was listening. Mormons are less into intellectualizing their faith and more into feeling it. Mormons “know” truth by experiencing it, so Christians can improve their presentation by learning how to speak effectively about the redemption experience. Rowe is passionate about helping Christians live out their faith in a way both transparent and deliberate. He and his family have resided in Salt Lake City for thirty years, giving him plenty of time to interact with the locals. He discovered first-hand the Mormon subculture—ethnicity—that makes a non-Mormon in Utah feel like a foreigner. Bumping against that invisible barrier over and over again helped Rowe define it. He writes as a professor and the dean of spiritual life at Salt Lake Theological Seminary (a non-LDS institution), where he teaches cross-cultural ministries.
Rowe is candid in sharing the mistakes he made and insights he gained, insights that would be useful in many cross-cultural settings--reaching the youth of our own society comes to mind. For example, Rowe stresses that in witnessing to Mormons, theology is not usually a good starting point. Most LDS people are unreflective regarding doctrinal or theological issues, so doctrinal knowledge should be used humbly and gently. The book first recounts various types of experiences in relating to LDS people. One chapter helps the reader understand Mormon ethnicity, including the strengths of their community, followed by a comparison of LDS and Christian doctrine and pointers on how to discuss the differences. How do some exit? Why do others choose to stay? The transition stories are noteworthy.
Rowe instructs us how to graciously welcome LDS visitors who come to our churches, and, more importantly, why we should. Those who visit are burdened by conditional grace, a hunger for God, inconsistencies in their own religion, and the weight of excessive expectations.
His chapter on basic teachings, “Mormonsim 101,” discusses the power of belonging and the importance of community, precisely what Mormons miss most when they leave. Rowe’s mild rebuke to evangelical Christians to live an interdependent community life may sting Americans committed to the familiar let-me-do-it-myself attitude. Rowe challenges us to reach out and meet Mormons with love and respect, ready to express our vital relationship to Christ as long as God gives an open door. Rowe also identifies door closers—preaching, taunting, dilettantism, and avoidance. Rowe supports his approach to effective communication with examples and case studies: how he did it wrong and how we can avoid making the same mistakes.
Beyond serving as a primer for understanding Mormons, this book reviews the distinctive acts of faith in Jesus Christ—the life change, the freshness of a vital relationship with God, the privilege and right to call God “Abba, Father.” This book can be used alone or as a companion study to a video training series, “Bridges: Helping Mormons Discover God’s Grace,” available from Salt Lake Theological Seminary (www.slts.edu).
Somewhat bothersome is Rowe’s reference to Christians as “traditional” Christians, blurring the distinction and perhaps inferring that Mormons are simply contemporary Christians while evangelicals are traditional. Readers may tire of Rowe referring to Mormons as “friends” when he means acquaintances or even unfamiliar missionaries at the front door. Also of concern is Rowe’s urging us to invite Mormon missionaries inside our homes and engage them in faith dialogue, something 2 John 10-11 specifically prohibits.
Overall, Rowe’s message for interacting with everyday Mormons is needed, the anecdotes are clear, and the wealth of experience that Rowe and his colleagues have gained is a treasure that we can freely dip into and learn from. -- M. J. Wooten, Christian Book Previews.com
How can Christians speak the Good News to Mormons so that it really sounds like good news?
Wrestling with this and other questions has led Salt Lake City resident David Rowe to a new way of sharing Christ with Latter-day Saints. "Mormons are three-dimensional human beings with their own culture, lingo, and worldview," Rowe explains. In evangelism, our words will be more effective if we start by learning and respecting LDS culture. Rowe's keen insights, helpful illustrations, and practical discussion questions will help readers to build bridges to Mormon friends and neighbors.