Ask A Mormon: Why try to convert other Christians?

Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online or fill out the form below.

Q. If Mormonism is a Christian faith, why is my son, who is a Christian, being asked to convert to Christianity in order to date a certain girl? He is already Christian!

A. There is absolutely no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requirement that anyone convert in order to date a member of the Church. It should go without saying that converting to any religion in order to please a prospective date is a bad idea on many, many levels.

I do not know the details of your son’s specific situation, of course, but perhaps I can provide a bit of context. There is a great deal of encouragement for members of the Church to marry in the temple, because we believe that the sealing ordinance available in the temple unites families eternally. Admittance to the temple is limited to members of the Church who qualify for a temple “recommend” by living according to certain guidelines.

Some individual Mormons have made the personal decision that they will only date those who are members of the Church, because they figure that you marry who you date, and it will increase the likelihood that they will eventually marry in the temple. This is not, however, an official stance of the Church, and not every Mormon has made that decision. My Mormon older brother is currently engaged to a wonderful Catholic woman, whom we all adore. Before meeting my husband, I dated Latter-day Saints as well as those of other faiths and had both great and lousy experiences in each category.

The Church’s published guideline for youth, a pamphlet called “For the Strength of Youth,” simply states, “Choose to date only those who have high moral standards and in whose company you can maintain your standards.” Pretty good advice for people of any belief system!

Another aspect to consider is that Mormonism is a missionary, proselytizing faith. It is not at all uncommon for members of the Church to invite friends, coworkers, neighbors, and, yes, people they are either dating or interested in dating to meet with the missionaries and learn more about the Church. The gospel is a source of joy for us and we want to share it! The missionaries’ goal is to teach people the gospel, bringing them to Christ, and invite them to be baptized into the Church. If your son is meeting with missionaries, even on a casual basis, they will likely extend that invitation. That is what missionaries do.

When my parents met, my mother was a lifelong member of the Church, and my father had been raised in another Christian faith. They dated for a couple of years, during which my father showed no interest in the Church, and were engaged before my father started really investigating the Church. When he decided to be baptized, it wasn’t because he felt he “had to” in order to marry my mom. It was because he had studied and prayed about the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he believed it was what God wanted him to do.

Sounds to me like your son and this young woman need to have a chat about their expectations for a dating relationship.

Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online or fill out the form below.


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Charlie Byers

This is one question where it strikes me what a difficult job you’re taking on, Emily, in trying to share your LDS experience without taking any particular person’s behavior as the model for practicing the faith – I appreciate that you’re doing it.

It is one of the many churches, though, that believes people baptized into other faiths aren’t actually ‘saved’, isn’t it? For an extreme example, I know someone who was personally involved in proxy baptisms of holocaust victims, as a teenager, until the church leadership forbade the practice. To broaden the original question: do you think this is an area where the LDS church invites a prickly relationship with other faiths? Do you think it’s something that’s being changed ‘from the top’, right now?

Eric Blauer

I broke off a relationship with a Mormon girl because it became clear that unless I converted to Mormonism..our relationship wouldn’t progress to marriage. That Temple issue, whose in, whose out etc became a dead end issue. I’ve recently witness a Protestant friend convert to Catholicism and heard him tell me he had to get “remarried” by a priest in the Catholic church afterwards.

This type of changing your jersey thing troubles me quite a bit with groups that say they are the same as everyone else but then when you get on their side of the field you end up having to change colors.

I’m dealing with one issue with another protestant church that re-baptized young people at a summer camp. My own son came back thinking he needed to get re-baptized because he’s older now. Now I have to undue their sectarian leaning influence that dangerously makes baptism look like an act of inclusion into a group instead of an act of inclusion into Christ.

Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

When the centrality of faith revolves around ‘Church’ instead of ‘Christ’…I get wary, no matter what title hangs on the door of the building.

Emily Geddes

Charlie & Eric – Thanks for your comments. You’ve touched on a lot of topics and I’ll try to address the main points here, but if I miss something, please feel free to submit it in the form above and I’ll have more time and space to get to them. 🙂

“Saved” is one of those words that I’ve found has many different definitions. It’s my understanding that many Christian denominations view being “saved” as a singular event which is sometimes marked by a public declaration of faith and/or private acceptance of Christ as Savior. In one sense, Latter-day Saints believe that everyone who is born on this earth is already “saved” from death; everyone will be resurrected. We absolutely believe that those in other Christian faiths are “saved from their sins” in the sense that they’ve accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have faith in His Atonement.

In another sense, Latter-day Saints view “being saved” as a process, not a one-time happening. Salvation is a life-long process of drawing closer to Christ, doing as He would do and becoming more like Him. Here’s a great talk from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that talks about those different definitions: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/05/have-you-been-saved

Many religions, not just Mormonism, have expectations, definitions, and rules regarding what baptisms they will and will not accept. Some faiths don’t accept infant baptism, others do. Some require re-baptism when you convert, some don’t. Some only accept baptism by immersion, others accept a symbolic sprinkling. For some an ordained pastor or minister must perform the baptism; others accept baptisms performed by any believer. Most other Christian faiths won’t accept a Mormon baptism as valid, though a few will.

For Latter-day Saints, baptism is more than simply a public declaration of faith. It’s a personal ordinance during which specific covenants are made, which we believe requires specific priesthood authority. It’s a step in the process leading to eternal salvation. When Latter-day Saints are baptized, they covenant that they “are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;…to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places” (see Mosiah 18:8-10). We are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Our faith and our baptism revolve around our commitment to Christ.

Eric – I think it likely that what your Protestant-turned-Catholic friend described was a “convalidation” rather than a “remarriage”. It’s a brief ceremony during which a married couple’s union is blessed and confirmed in the eyes of the Catholic church. It’s my understanding that it’s a similar issue of specific authority and official recognition.

Charlie – Proxy baptisms are a great topic I’d love to discuss but will take more space than a comments section will allow. Would you be willing to submit it as a question in the form above and I’ll get to it as soon as I’ve whittled down the rest of the stack?


Emily, you’ve said something that I totally agree with, it’s just a hard fit with my own experience with the LDS church, or for that matter, with any other church with a mission to bring people in from other faiths. There’s a great question in there, somewhere, about interfaith community.

I’ll be glad to send in an ‘ask’ about the proxy baptisms – I look forward to the discussion!

Paul Susac

This whole issue is a great window into the nature of ideology:

You have to believe “X” in order to be “one of us.” Belief is like a membership card into a social group.

This is actually an amazing social innovation that religion offers us (political parties also do this), because it allows us to form groups that are much larger than tribes based on kinship.

There is a cost though: You can’t question “X” too much or too publicly. If you do, you risk losing all the privilege, support and safety of being “one of us.” On of the privileges that religious in-groups offer is legitimacy. In this case it is the legitimacy of marriage. Holding a monopoly on this legitimacy is one of the big sources of power that religions hold.

Weird, huh?

[…] it online or fill out the form below.  Q. This topic came up in the discussion following an earlier column: the LDS church has drawn some negative attention for the practice of “proxy baptisms,” […]

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