Names that are italicized have been changed (out of respect) to allow those who have not consented to remain anonymous.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


A final appeal

This will probably be the last entry (mostly so that it appears first). I've been blogging below my mission trip to Utah. I don't really think I need to justify this trip, but I did want to make an open invitation for everyone.

Maybe you're thinking about becoming a Mormon. Maybe you already are one. Perhaps you are not connected to Christianity in any way at all, and you don't see the point of certain apples trying to convert other apples into different apples. Maybe you even identify yourself as a Christian and just think of Mormons as "just another denomination". Maybe you know that there's a difference between Christians and Mormons that goes beyond trivial issues, but don't know what they are. Maybe Mormonism is scary to you, because you admittedly don't know very much about it. Maybe you're a Christian and you "want to help", but you don't know what to say, or the right questions to ask. Maybe you're a Mormon and offended by people attacking your religion and persecuting you.

If any of those statements apply to you, please read on.

The Mormon Church (or, in longhand, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was founded on April 6th of 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr., a native of Palmyra in upstate New York. From the very beginning, the LDS Church has focused on how different it is than traditional and orthodox Christianity.

I love the Mormon people, and I love all of the good deeds that Mormons do (like helping with the recent tsunami relief effort). There are a lot of things that people who call themselves Christian could learn from such an example. However, I have two fundamental problems with the Mormon Church.

The first is its hiearchy. While the individual members may be very very very good people and good neighbors, I think a very different thing can be said of its top-level leadership (the collective past apostles and prophets, known as the General Authorities). Many recent leaders (including Spencer W. Kimball and Bruce R. McConkie) have made bold statements to deny that Brigham Young ever taught that Adam was God the Father. Whether or not Brigham Young ever taught such a doctrine is not the matter (in fact, he most likely did: there's a lot of literature published between 1852 and 1900 to prove it). The problem is that some of these very same (especially Bruce R. McConkie) have engaged in a "cover-up" process, the kind of thing you might think a suspicious secretive branch of the FBI might do. While denying that Brigham Young taught that Adam was God in a public book, he admitted in a private letter that Brigham Young did teach such a doctrine and "all the related things that the cultists [cultists here meaning critics of the Mormon Church] ascribe to him". McConkie is one of several examples of General Authorities involved in deceptive cover-up, "lying for the Lord", and rewriting the accounts of history. While you and I may disagree about whether it is ethical or not to convert other people (and Christians: we shouldn't take the charge of Jesus in Matthew 28 lightly), I think we all can agree on this much: it is ethical to share (in an appropriately kind manner) with people information that they are being lied to, especially if you believe that you have sharable evidence that can prove it. The fact that the issue of deception deals with religion does not make it less acceptable to share. If at all anything, since mankind holds such high views on religion, it would make it even more acceptable to uncover, and maybe you could even say that it would be imperative to do so. In fact, if I had information that someone was lying to my friend and I didn't say anything about it, that would be unethical! I know that I haven't had much of a chance in this paragraph to cite more than one example of deception, but if you want more, please e-mail me with your questions and I'd be glad to help you in your discovery.

The second issue is doctrinal. No, I am not talking about polygamy or why blacks weren't granted the priesthood until 1978. As odd as those things were to me at first, I've gotten over them over time (or at least done a good job of ignoring them). As important as these two issues and others might be, they are not the heart of the matter. The Bible we have today, and it is translated and transcribed correctly, tells us about an important story. The story is about you (and me) and God.

Fulfilling this Great Commission charge (sharing this story) should be reason enough for scared Christians to drop their fear and work for the Lord. For those who trust in Christ, whom is there to fear? You can walk in the armor of the Word of God, and build the knowledge of the deceptive practices of Mormons leaders, as well as the way to share God's Word with others.

Back to the story: You see, the first twelve chapters of Genesis deal with some important beginnings. It's more than just the story of creation. The infinite and eternal God, by purity of His very Word, spoke everything into creation, seeing that it was good. Grace is offered. Adam and Eve rebel, eating of the forbidden fruit. After punishment, fresh grace is received: God offers Adam and Eve clothing. But the story does not stop there! The next section is about Cain and Abel. Cain murders Abel (again, man had rebelled). When Cain could not bear the judgement of God, God granted new mercy and new grace: Cain was marked so that he would be protected. Noah. Mankind again had gone into a state of rebellion. After the flood, God offered new grace in the sign of a rainbow. Mankind again rebelled in the attempt to create a city to make their own name great. God destroys that tower in Babel, confusing their languages. Where is new grace?

WHERE is new grace??!??? God promises Abraham, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2). That promise of grace would be filled a long time later. The first verse in the gospel of Matthew is: "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham".

The Mormon Church teaches that we are "saved by grace, after all you can do." Well, what is "all that one can do"? The Mormon leader Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, "To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept...Do you desire to enter the celestial Kingdom and receive eternal life? Then be willing to keep all of the commandments." (The Way to Perfection, pg. 206). Another Mormon prophet (Spencer W. Kimball) taught that the "repentance which merits forgiveness" is the kind in which "the former transgressor must have reached a 'point of no return' to sin wherein there is not merely a renunciation but also a deep abhorrence of the sin - where the sin becomes most distasteful to him and where the desire or urge to sin is cleared out of his life" (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp.354-355). Trying is not enough!! Sins must be fully purged from our lives, according to the Mormon plan of salvation. Kimball also writes, "Trying is not sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin." He went on to say, "To 'try' is weak. To 'do the best I can' is not strong. We must always do better than we can". If you're a Mormon, are you doing better than you can? Are you doing more than you can do?

The promise of new grace in the Bible comes through Abraham's line, in the person of Jesus Christ. God loved the world so much that he sent his only son to redeem the world. The very God of the universe did not become incarnate to replace the old Jewish law with some new series of Christian laws! The law, never being able to be fulfilled (in Old Testament or New Testatment times) necessitated a sacrifice. In the Old Testatment, Aaronic priests made the blood sacrifice on behalf of the people. In the New Testament, Christ (the Melchezedik priest) came to make that sacrifice for all mankind! How joyous is that!?????!!!

What is the purpose of the law? The law wasn't meant to be obeyed as a sign of perfection. It can't be done! The Bible says, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.' The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:10-13).

If the law can not be observed to the point of perfection, what is the point of it? "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:20). The purpose of the law is to merely show us that we have sin! In fact, Paul says, "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' " (Romans 7:7).

So, then what is our way to righteousness? "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify" (Romans 3:21). And that righteousness isn't found inside us! The Law and the Prophets did not testify about Mr. John Doe or Miss Jane Doe! They testified about Jesus Christ as the source of righteousness!

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) The righteousness is not our own work. It is not us "doing more than we can do". It comes through faith in Christ. Judgement day will not involve looking for membership records in a computer in Salt Lake City (nor in any other city, for that matter). Those who have this faith are Christians, and Christians are certain about their eternal future! We know that there is no more condemnation, no worrying about the afterlife. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4) What we could not do, God did! God already did!

The Mormon Church may teach its members many good things, and many Mormons may believe in large portions of the Bible. However, this teaching is vehemently non-Mormon. Mormons are taught not to have this promise of God what is the centrality, and whole point of, the Bible story! Instead, it's law replaced for a new law. There is freedom in the truth! There is no more need to ask confusing questions about church history, being told that you "just need more faith". God offers true freedom! "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32). If you are a Mormon, I am asking you to look into the claims of the Mormon Church and study the LDS Church more carefully than you ever have before. I am asking you to learn about the things that the General Authorities are trying to cover up. I am pleading with you to leave the lying leaders and to trust in Christ Jesus alone for your righteousness.

Renewed life in Christ is an exciting thing! It doesn't have to be about yet another boring Sacrament Meeting! This new life is so overwhelming that how can you keep from singing, dancing, jumping, screaming, and sharing?? I am asking you to do your research, and ask me questions if you have any. I will be kind, honest, and objective in answering any questions you might have. I am inviting you to trust in Jesus Christ alone, and not in any part of yourself. I pray that you will find out (in honest study) that Mormon leaders are habitual and good liars and that you also come to seek God more than you ever have. I testify that the Bible, reliable for history and doctrine, does teach about a different Christ than the Mormon Church, and that faith in the Biblical Christ will transform your life. May God bless you as you seek His face. I leave you this testimony, to the glory of God, in the name of His only Son, even the cherished and precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Asking for your prayers

Now that trip to Utah has passed, I am asking for your prayers again. First, please pray again that the efforts of the team would be put to use in God's kingdom. Pray for all the future contacts and the building of relationships.

Also, I forgot to mention that Sarah (Angie's friend) was apparently going through a lot of personal things. Though I'm not sure what they are, please lift up in prayer the burdens of a fellow human, and pray that whatever the issue is, God would turn evil into good (for His glory) and be able to show Sarah the way to Christ.

Please pray for each member of the team. Pray for Russ and Tammy East, as they continue to run Utah Partnerships for Christ. Pray for Henry and Jennifer Hatch, as they begin the process of planting a church from scratch. Pray for Elbert's safety as he travels. Please pray for John Jepson as he grows in the faith. Pray for Rob Sivulka and his visible ministry: pray that people would not be offended by what he does, but that the would be intrigued and that God would find a way for these people to have open dialogue with Rob, so that he should share the truth of Christ and Mormonism. Please pray for Angie's sister (Bethany), for her physical health. Also pray for Steve and Heather, as they begin a new chapter of life together, and bless their presence in Utah. Keep in prayer the members of the Cedarville team: Rachel, Jason, Phil, Angie, Dr. Pete, Angie, Art, Kristy, and Jess.

Finally, keep in thankful prayer God's goodness. God is doing an amazing work in Utah, and pray that willing Christians continue to seek out the chance to minister to Mormons in a loving and kind way. Pray that Mormons see ministering Christians with a clear love of all mankind and that the shadows of Mormonism are lifted and that the truth of Christ's salvation message becomes clear by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Asking for your prayers

Now that trip to Utah has passed, I am asking for your prayers again. First, please pray again that the efforts of the team would be put to use in God's kingdom. Pray for all the future contacts and the building of relationships.

Also, I forgot to mention that Sarah (Angie's friend) was apparently going through a lot of personal things. Though I'm not sure what they are, please lift up in prayer the burdens of a fellow human, and pray that whatever the issue is, God would turn evil into good (for His glory) and be able to show Sarah the way to Christ.

Please pray for each member of the team. Pray for Russ and Tammy East, as they continue to run Utah Partnerships for Christ. Pray for Henry and Jennifer Hatch, as they begin the process of planting a church from scratch. Pray for Elbert's safety as he travels. Please pray for John Jepson as he grows in the faith. Pray for Rob Sivulka and his visible ministry: pray that people would not be offended by what he does, but that the would be intrigued and that God would find a way for these people to have open dialogue with Rob, so that he should share the truth of Christ and Mormonism. Please pray for Angie's sister (Bethany), for her physical health. Also pray for Steve and Heather, as they begin a new chapter of life together, and bless their presence in Utah. Keep in prayer the members of the Cedarville team: Rachel, Jason, Phil, Angie, Dr. Pete, Angie, Art, Kristy, and Jess.

Finally, keep in thankful prayer God's goodness. God is doing an amazing work in Utah, and pray that willing Christians continue to seek out the chance to minister to Mormons in a loving and kind way. Pray that Mormons see ministering Christians with a clear love of all mankind and that the shadows of Mormonism are lifted and that the truth of Christ's salvation message becomes clear by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Going back

I met with the group for one last time. They would be remaining in Utah through the rest of the week! I was so jealous! There is so much work left to do here!

We all quickly shared some of the experiences we had talking to people on campus. Then, after praying for each other, I exchanged goodbyes with everyone and got everyone's contact info, so that we could keep in touch in the future.

Russ and I broke down the expenses of this trip for me, and in the end, only about $70 was not covered by donations that came in! It was an amazing example of God's faithfulness when we decide that we are not the masters of our own time and will, but the very eternal God of the universe is! "Planning" this trip became a lot easier as I just dropped each concern and left it to God in prayer. This trip has been an exercise in "faith-growing" for me, and I had an amazing chance to see what God is doing in Utah.

I heard testimonies from several people who left the Mormon Church, and through this trip, got a chance to meet even more people who left the Mormon Church and became Christian. I learned not only about what to share when presenting the Gospel of Christ, but also new ways to share. I have a lot of work to do in the upcoming days (handing out information, calling people, e-mailing the Mormons who gave me their e-mail addresses, making websites with information, etc.) but WOW, isn't God amazing!????

The biggest personal effect on me was a deep renewal in the love of God's word. Mormons don't fully trust the Bible, but instead rely on the text of the Book of Mormon, which gives a bleak-at-best method of salvation. I'm leaving Utah with a new joy in reading the Bible, and a strong desire to come back to Utah, and even tell others about the chance to come and serve a mission in this way.

I've never served a mission (at least in this sense, where you leave your comforts of home for any amount of time), but now I understand (at least in part) their importance. Sure, there were all the people that I ended up talking to, Christian and Mormon, but there was a deeper work in place: God was "missionizing" my heart, realigning my life and helping me realize that all of the concernts that I had suspended thought on that I would be going back to... were really trivial matters compared to eternal life and eternal death, and maxmimizing your chances to share about the story of life with others!!

Please pray for all of the Mormons that our team came into contact with. Richard and Sarah realized that the Jesus we knew had more to offer than any earthly organization, and I'm grateful for witnessing their desire to hang out with us as much as possible. The friendships they had with people in our group came through continual discussion and contact for a full year. Please pray not only that the Holy Spirit would minister to people with the things that we've already had the chance to share, but for all future interactions with these same people by e-mail and phone.


Tuesday would mark the last day of my mission trip in Utah, at least for now. (P.S. Our timing in seeing The Testaments film yesterday was impeccable: the long-playing movie is going to be replaced soon with another one honoring Joseph Smith.)

We drove south to Provo, home of the Brigham Young University. Russ suggested that I go with Dr. Burban to FARMS, so we did that, spending approximately two hours there, after first attending the devotional.

This Tuesday, BYU had a devotional. The devotional took some very far-out interpretations on the biblical texts regarding adoption. The message of the Bible is clear: there is only one begotten son of God, and that's Jesus Christ! All who place faith in Jesus are adopted children of God.

FARMS is the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. Though its original goal was to validate the Book of Mormon using academic study, today it tries to validate almost any aspect of the Mormon Church through any reasonable means. The man we spoke with was quite knowledgeable and very friendly. We delved deeply into a lot of issues concerning the validity of Mormonism. Madness. I told him that in my studies, there was nothing conclusive the FARMS has established. The did concede that as well. How different that is from several (though not all) archaelogical, linguistic, and historical studies done around the Bible!

We thanked the researcher for his time, and Dr. Burban and I parted ways. I walked around some main quad near the cafeterias and eventually just went up to a guy leaving what looked like a lecture hall. I asked if he had a moment for a question. Then, I asked him, "What is sin?" This became a thirty minute discussion on the lawn about big sin versus little sin, and how salvation is obtained. At the end of it all, he gave his testimony. Then, I asked him if I could bear mine. I told him that God loves every one of us, and that the plan of salvation is not dependent on a membership record in an office building in Salt Lake City, or in any other city! I told him about a Jesus Christ who knew that we are saved by grace, and there is nothing that we can do, save for what God does in using us for His purposes. I asked him to read the Bible, and treat it fully as the Word of God.

We exchanged e-mail addresses, since I had to meet the rest of the group. Please pray for Jeff, that he may trust in Christ and not in his own works.

Monday, March 07, 2005



We just got done with Family Home Evening. On Monday nights, the Mormon Church has mandated that no Church activites will occur so that families can spend the time together, to read Scripture, play games, pray, sing hymns, and so on.

Well, college students in university towns typically go to a ward-sponsored activity on Monday night so that that can be their FHE. The ward we visited yesterday planned on doing a project at a local non-prof, so it wouldn't have been easy for us to tag along. So, instead, we went to Richard's ward, the Ogden University 6th Ward. Later, I learned that this is actually a ward in the other student stake. (A stake is a geographic organization of 5-15 wards. Student wards are organized in student stakes. There are enough college students in Ogden to merit two student stakes.)

It was kareoke night. After a short (and very unprepared) lesson, we went right ahead into the song contest. The bishopric of the ward served as judges. The night was crazy, wild, and fun, I'd say. Though people would skip over profane lyrics, people didn't seem to be bothered by all kinds of other ...uh.... "dancing" (i.e. booty shaking, etc.) that people were doing. I think that it's all an attempt on some people's parts to try to advertise themselves (so that they can get married). It's kind of unfortunate, being that Christ did not come to say that marraige should become a burden of necessity for entering God's kingdom!

Well, back to kareoke. It was definitely fun. Soda, candy, and chips were provided. The bishop somehow immediately knew who we were, which still remains a mystery. He came over to us and said, "You guys are the Christian group, huh?" All we could really do is say that we were. We did have a couple good casual conversations, and the night passed by and was a lot of fun. The bishop even kept teasing some of us to go up and sing. What a contrast to the stoic nature of the Sunday block meetings!! FHE is where Mormon college kids can let loose and display that wild side.

After everything was done, we helped with clean up. As we were leaving, the bishop caught us in the parking lot. He gave us his cell phone number and told us that we could call him if any trouble came up. We thanked Bishop Berube for the number.

I think that having participated in a social activity with Mormons was good so that we could build relations. I knew walking in that Mormons are good people, and I hope that the Mormons there got to see us as nice people that they wouldn't equate (at least in niceness) with the street preachers that show up around General Conference time. Same beliefs, just a different approach. Anyhow, an event like this helps everybody remember that we are all people.


The Testaments

After lunch, we went to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to watch a showing of The Testaments. This was a dramatic production meant to tug at people's hearts, a bitter attempt to try to create a testimony of the Book of Mormon through emotions (that is, tears).

After the showing, I walked with Art and we talked with a couple leaving the movie, noticing that they were talking to the missionaries. We waited around for them, and they told us that they were already Mormon. Art gave a challenge to read the book of Romans and we left that conversation.

We quickly walked through the South Visitors Center, but no one there wanted to talk. Running short on time, we went to the basement level of the North Visitors Center. There, we talked with Sisters Arler and Nepesi. We got into a discussion about the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead, and everything else that's available for discussion in 1 Corinthians 15. In our short time, we talked about the purpose of Christ's death and resurrection, and the method of argumentation that Paul uses in that chapter to justify the existence of ressurection bodies.

Temple Square again

Monday, we went back to Temple Square again. We worked together in groups to dialogue with the sister missionaries working at the Square. My group went into the North Temple Visitor's Center where we talked with Sister Pransky. We focused our conversation around the witness of Jesus Christ in the Bible, and His plan of salvation. However, this missionary was very determined to bring the Book of Mormon in as a witness more reliable than the Bible. We lightly challenged that notion, and someone in our group realized that she was trying in vain to page security to escort us off of the square.

She escaped from us in an easy moment: one in our group had asked about the location of the bathroom. Then, we toured the tall Church Office Building. We met in the food court at the ZCMI mall for lunch, where we met John Jepson and Rob Sivulka.

John was borm LDS and was a temple-married Mormon with four kids. John was serving in the bishopric (the bishopric is the quorum of a ward bishop and his two counselors) when the beginning of the end came for him. He started seeing problems in LDS church history, connections with masonry in the temple, and the Book of Abraham. (Because of the length of his summary, it's hard to know which specific issues in church history were the kicker for John. As far as masonry goes, there's an uncomfortable number of simmilarities between the Mormon temple ordinance called the "endowment" and the secret rituals of the freemasons. Incidentally, the use of the temple for "endowment" purposes came very recently after Joseph Smith joined the masons. As for the Book of Abraham, it is now understood that the original scripts from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price are Egyptian funerary texts from The Book of the Dead. The incorrect translation is enough for some to conclude that Joseph Smith was a fraud.)

John kept putting these issues on the "back bookshelf" of his mind. Then, he asked himself, "How much do I have to see to come to the conclusion that the Mormon Church is false?" He doubted the reliability of anything. He talked to the staff at Utah Lighthouse Ministry. He realized, also, that he hadn't given the Bible a fair chance.

Then, two years ago, he was invited to go to church with a friend. After the second time he went, his wife (Lisa) found out. She was not happy at all. She told him that he had to choose between that [non-Mormon] church, or her and the kids. John realized the question she was asking, and he had to rephrase it back to her, "Please don't make me choose between God or you, because if I have to, I'll choose God."

Well, John chose God, and his wife left him and took the kids. In court, Lisa's family portrayed John as a lunatic, and custody was essentially granted to Lisa. John gets supervised monthly visits. (And all he did was change religion!!) I don't know, but I'll take a wild guess that John is still the nice and reasonable guy he is as when he was called to the bishopric. John's been going to church ever since, and his divorce only finalized about three months ago. The time has been trying for him.

He did leave us with an extra candle of hope: John served a Mormon mission in England. He told us to not give up what we are doing now. On his mission, John said that he had been in semi-regular contact with a British Christian who was doing for him exactly the same things that we are presenting to these Mormons across the street.

Rob told us of his story, and how a mission trip to Utah helped him realize his call to settle in Utah and work with Mormons to help them come to Christ. Rob runs, a site that compares Biblical Christianity and Mormonism from a doctrinal standpoint. He had some fliers to give to us so that we could distribute them to others.

On a typical day, Rob stands right outside the South Gate to Temple Square (security won't allow him in the Square itself, but the sidewalk outside the gate is public property) and holds up signs for and/or while passing out literature informing visitors about Temple Square.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Helping out

The team gathered for a moment of service. Russ's parents recently moved from California to Utah. We made a surprise visit over to their place. Because of their older age, they really hadn't had a chance to unpack things and put everything into place. Additionally, Russ's mom was really really sick.

Russ's dad opened the door, and he accepted the invitation of the help of this army of ten college kids. We unpacked boxes and put everything in its place, as much as was possible. They had a lot of boxes and a lot of space in their house.

Though they had left the Mormon Church, Russ's mom had become rebaptized as a Mormon. Russ knew that his mom didn't really believe in it, but since it was such a dominant culture in Utah, Russ thought that she did it because of the friendships it would create. So, after unpacking, we did a couple of things:

Russ's father thanked us for helping out. We gathered around to pray for him and bless his home. As we were about to break from holding hands, he stopped us and said that he wanted to pray for us. He knew what we were doing in Utah. Tearfully, he thanked God for our help and blessed his son for his ministry. The prayer was short, but extremely sweet, and brought tears to my eyes.

Then, Russ and his dad went into the master bedroom, where Russ's mother was sleeping. They asked if some Christian friends could come in and pray with her. We gathered around the bed in the dark room, and Henry Hatch led us in prayer. He annointed her head with some oil and we prayed for recovery of health.

On the way back to the hotel, we prayed that Russ's mom would realize that Christ's love is unconditional, and not dependent on membership in a particular denomination. We prayed the hope that our witness today was an example of the way Christ would love.

At the East residence

We got in small groups to chit-chat after Testimony meeting. I ended up in dialogue with one guy about what it means to be free the way Christ describes freedom. His response was a lot like another I had earlier in response to the question, "Are you free?" Both of those responses were along the lines of, "Well, I'm not free now, but once I do this and that and this, then I wil be free."

We got in our vehicles and headed to Russ's house. There, we had a barbeque and heard a testimony from Henry Hatch. Henry grew up in the Mormon Church. His journey out of Mormonism began as he was serving his mission for the church. After realizing he didn't "know" what is required, he began to read the Book of Mormon, and started finding contradictions right away in the BOM. He asked his mission president (a mission president oversees all of the missionaries in a geographic region called a "mission") about some of these troubling issues, and eventually, they came to an agreement that he could write his stake president once a month.

Each month, he would write up his questions, and each month, his list would grow with inaccuracies and contradictions. The response he got back in the first month from his stake president at home said that he "needed more faith." That's what each response he got back said! He realized, after four months, that none of his questions were directly answered. He appealed back to his mission president, saying that his questions weren't being answered. His mission president, ironically, told him that he needed more faith.

After realizing that the Mormon Church simply wasn't true, Henry decided to wait out the remaining couple months of his mission so that he could be released honorably and prevent any shame and public condemnation of his parents. Though Henry's father was then and still is a Mormon, he respected his father as a good man and didn't want to bring any trouble home.

For years, you could say that Henry was angry at God, and had nothing to do with religion. He worked in construction, and his head was as hard as his hat. But he eventually got an invitation to go to church from a friend. After several invitations, he went with his wife. With much nervousness, he listened to the sermon. Only this time, the message was no longer about maintaining an impossible level of Mormon worthiness: the message was the hope and freedom of living a life dependent wholly on Jesus Christ alone! Henry describes his own experience by saying that he couldn't believe that this big, burly construction man was trying hard to conceal the fact that he was bawling since the message was talking to him.

After the sermon and a couple songs, the service had an "altar call", an invitation for any non-Christians in the audience to admit the guilt of sin and accept Christ's payment for that sin. Henry told himself he wouldn't go, but the preacher kept saying over the speaker system that "there's still someone in this audience who needs to come to Christ; I can feel it." Henry went up during that last call.

His life was changed: no more dirty magazine wallpaperings, no more bad language, no more meanness, and so on. Henry is now in the process of becoming a pastor for his own church.

It was amazing to be able to hear Henry's story. After days of talking with Mormons, it sometimes feels like there's no closure to the discussions. Sometimes, the situation feels helpless. Henry's story was a good boost, and at the right time. Yes, people do come to realize that the Mormon Church is filled with doctrinal contradictions, historical inaccuracies, and deceitful leaders. And yes, people do then eventually come around to learn of the goodness that Christ really has to offer!

The 3-hour block

We had to leave early so that we could go to the Institute building at Ogden. No, no classes for students were being held: the building (as most Institute buildings do) doubles as a ward meetinghouse. In a busy building like this one, not all of the wards that meet can have their "Sunday meetings" in the "normal order".

We went to the meetings of the 16th Ward. The first meeting was Elder's Quorum. All of the guys went to EQ while all of the women went to Relief Society meeting. Typically, there are a lot more meetings than just these two in most other wards. Because of the limited age range (all the members of the ward were single college students) there were no kids. If there's people under 18, then there's also a nursery program called "Primary" as well as 3 age-specific meetings for teenage boys and 3 age-specific meetings for teenage girls.

Right before EQ, two members from our team were invited to give the opening and closing prayers. This was quite a pleasant surprise! Russ gave the closing prayer, and had first asked people if they had ever heard a non-Mormon pray, and asked if he could pray in his normal way, avoiding the use of thee, thou, though, and thum. I know that all the rest of us on the team were simultaneously praying hard that God's spirit would convict these people listening that they need to drop their dependence on a membership record and place trust in Christ alone.

The next hour block was devoted to "Sunday school." There were three classes to choose from, and we each just kinda split up and went our own ways on this. Incidentally, I was the only one in one of the classes. Again, in most wards, there are way more classes devoted to different age ranges. Here, we only had the ones for "adults." Like during the EQ meeting, the teaching was a little bland. That's kinda what you expect when the teachers are appointed rather than being voluntary. The hour passed without much incident, though I did try to raise a few questions for thought: "If Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God, then how can we all theologically be called sons and daughters of God?" In John 1:12-14, we know that those who believe in the "Word"/Logos, they have been given the privilege to become children of God. This isn't automatic, and it's not a pre-existing state: it is a transformation of status. Faith in Christ grants immediate adoption into a spiritual family.

The last meeting of the day was Sacrament Meeting, the one that's normally supposed to be first. Not only was Richard there with us, but so was Sarah (another Mormon who had kept in contact with one of the team members since this time last year). Since it was the first Sunday of the month, this was also actually a "Fast and Testimony Meeting." On F and T days, Mormons of age fast the first two meals of the day to donate the money meant for those meals for the needy. Also, instead of having previously-assigned talks with a specific theme, members in the congregation come up to the stand to "bear their testimony." Bearing a testimony can involve a number of small stories, and some people who are in the process of moving into the area or out of the area will use this time to say their "hellos" or "goodbyes" to a lot of people at once. But after all of that kind of stuff and talk about how much a particular story or person or animal taught so much, a testimony ends with a bunch of sentences of the form "I know that..." and is completed with "I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

I've sat through a number of these before, but sitting with a number of other Christians, it was a disheartening (and boring) to hear these testimonies. I don't think that I had ever before nearly fallen asleep in a Sacrament Meeting before.


On Sunday morning, we went to Russ's regular church, Washington Heights. We experienced a most-amazing thing! Jess, one of the Cedarville team members, had been keeping in e-mail contact with Richard (who is Mormon) for an entire year. In fact, I hadn't noticed that carefully, but he'd been over at the motel last night. In fact, he would be visiting with the team almost every single day. I think that he realizes that we have something different, and something to offer, but he's not yet ready to bite. That's okay. All we can do is pray for him and with him, and offer our help, and be a good friend.

Anyway, the sermon was based on the text of Daniel 3, and it was somehow well-suited for a visitor of another faith to just come in and casually listen. After the message, there was a celebration the Lord's table, and I was quite pleased with the invitation of the pastor: "We realize that this is not the table of Washington Heights, but the table of Christ our Lord. Therefore, you don't have to be a member of Washington Heights to partake of this table, you just have to have your trust in Jesus Christ, or have a desire to make that step forward." Along with the team, Richard did take communion.

We had to politely excuse ourselves early to do our next thing...

Saturday, March 05, 2005


The Pie, Discussion

We had dinner at "The Pie" near Weber State. The pizza there was quite delicious, and I think we ordered just enough of it.

After eating, we headed back to the motel. After doing some Bible reading and such, I had a discussion with Dr. Pete Burban, the chaperone of the Cedarville team. His approach in talking to LDS Church members is a bit different than my own. Still, that's okay, because I've been starting to learn that there are many approaches to being able to share God's word with those who are stuck in the though processes of Mormonism.

His method quotes exclusively from the Bible, and is an attempt to quickly discover what is the concern of a person's heart. People who don't have the salvation offered by Jesus Christ have certain burning questions, he's noticed. What is in the person's heart? Maybe they ask, "Where do people go when they die?" or "What happens to babies?" As Christians, we may not have all the answers to these questions to the minutest detail, but for the unsaved who are seeking, these are questions that cause concern. Knowing what is the concern of a person's heart provides a springboard to actually being able to discuss something more profound, like the Word of God. God's Word is mightier than anyone's stubbornness.

Questions like these help point out the doctrinal differenst that arise from the passions of the seeker. You could also ask "Do you have a burden?" or "Are you forgiven" or "How do you deal with your sins?" or "Are you free?"

As I got ready to go to bed, I realized how much of a mental toll being in Utah was taking. While just driving from place to place over the course of a little over two days, I must have seen 100 ward bulidings! (A "ward" is a local congregation of Mormon believers: in dense areas, 2 to 5 wards will share a single physical building for primary use as a Sunday meeting space.)

The team from Cedarville

Today, I met Russ. After picking up a rental van in Layton, Russ, Heather, Steve, and I went to the airport to pick up the mission team from Cedarville University. We did a couple handshakes and all that, and then we headed immediately to Temple Square.

At the Square, we got solid time to be able to break up in teams of two and talk with the missionaries working at the Square. Pray for Sisters Cannon and Taylor. We quickly got entangled with the idea of "grace after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23), comparing it to the doctrine of being "saved by grace" (Ephesians 2:8).

Afterward, we took all of the cars down south for a visit to the Utah Lighthouse Ministry. This is a bookstore and Christian resource run by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, two former Mormons. The Tanners are probably the experts in Mormonism research using primary sources and drawing objective conclusions with a Christian perspective. I've purchased a number of things here through the web or phone, so it was something to actualy be able to visit this place.

Friday, March 04, 2005


At the Hatches

I got picked up at 4 in the afternoon, in the parking lot of the Institute. I was leaving a casual conversation with a pair of Mormon elders as a minivan drove up with a face I didn't recognize.

It was Jennifer Hatch. She happened to be in the east Ogden area and so it was coordinated that she would pick me up. We drove back to Layton to the Hatch residence. They were prepping for a bible study that they run on Friday nights. Jennifer basically grew up non-religious, though she has some family members who are LDS. She met her future husband Henry at a time when he was non-religious. We would hear more about Henry later when he gave us his testimony.

After dinner, we studied the Genesis text of Abram and Isaac. Henry couldn't make it tonight because his dad was in the hospital. It looks like God's work is all over the place: it came out quite clearly in the kinds of things that people were offering up as prayer requests. One of the people who showed up for the bible study was a Mormon! Praise God!

Off-Institute, On Campus, ...

I walked across the street to campus, and had some conversations with random students. For the most part, they said that living in Ogden and being a part of the college community in Ogden in a predominant culture didn't prevent them from doing whatever they normally do. I got a chance to talk to a gentleman as he left the Institute building. Later on, I would have a conversation with someone who noticed that "Mormons are very happy to discuss the topic of religion." I guess that I had never really thought about that explicitly very much, but I knew it to be true.

This guy was unfortunately in too much of a hurry to have a deep conversation. However, I met up with another guy as he was leaving the Institute. He was about to light up a cigarette, and I sorta "called him" on it. Now, one thing to know about Jesus: If lighting up a cigarette could even be considered a sin, it is quite certain that the power of the blood in the atonement of Jesus Christ could certainly wipe away such an act! This guy was a little embarassed that I had pointed out his habit, even though I told him that I wasn't going to think of him any less for it. We discussed the ramifications of his habit from a Mormon point of view. I asked him, "Honestly, where do you see yourself in the next life? Celestial? Terrestrial?" He was able to be honest with me that his answer was "Not Celestial". He was also running out of time: I guess students tend to get busy with their plans toward the end of the school day on a Friday afternoon. I left him my phone number and told him that he could call me to ask any questions he might have.

Institute of Religion at Weber State

Steve and Heather came to pick me up. They have a lot of errands to run for the day, but they drove me to the Institute of Religion at Weber State University. The "Institute" is a place where the Mormon Church establishes a building with teachers and classes meant for religious use. Students will come to this center just across the street from school to take religion classes structured much like the ones in the Religion department at BYU. Classes are free and open to the public, but most of the students are members of the LDS Church. The Institute also provides a place for people to just hang out, with a lounge and basketball courts, etc.

I was amazed at the size of the Institute in Ogden. I guess it makes sense that you would find big Institute buildings in Utah. I talked with a student who said that this was considered small in comparison to the one at the University of Utah in Salt Lake. Of course, BYU itself doesn't have one: there is no need for a "Mormon haven" if the entire campus is owned by "the Church."

Thursday, March 03, 2005



Steve, Heather, and I drove up north toward Ogden along I-15. We arrived at Elbert's apartment in Layton. That's where I'd be staying for two nights. After Steve, Heather, and Elbert had a chance to catch up, they left to go to the Hatch residence, where they were staying for the time.

Elbert is actually in the middle of packing because he's moving out. Elbert and I got to have a great chat about wisdom. Knowledge of God (and of theological concepts) is a great thing, but more important than book-based knowledge is wisdom: the knowledge and trust that God knows. Easy things to say, more difficult things to experience.

Through Temple Square, up to the rehearsal

We decided to cut through Temple Square and head up to the Conference Center to observe the choir's rehearsal. While eating, Steve and Heather told me about the security on Temple Square. Steve noted that they'd seen cameras and microphones that are set up all around the Square. The sister missionaries are all given pagers that can be used to create an alert whenever necessary. One red flag is "former Mormons". During a previous visit, it was stated in a conversation that Steve used to be Mormon, and the sisters politely stalled while someone called for security on a telephone at the other end of the room.

I understand, of course, why the Mormon Church practices this. It makes sense that they don't want to have any crazy disturbance, especially if it can be prevented. However, some people do come to just have good conversation, and not cause a public disturbance. I think that the real issue is that the LDS Church doesn't want to deal with their missionaries questioning anything as a result of interactions with people like us. Though I understand why they do it, it's hard to accept. If the Church really were true, they should have nothing to be scared of. As I've read many times before, "truth will withstand scrutiny"!

We arrived just in time for the 8 o'clock rehearsal. They started with some jokes that were inaudible to us, and an opening prayer. We stayed for the duration of two song rehearsals. That took 30 minutes, and it was about all we could take. They sound very good, but it wasn't very loud (part of it must have had to do with the fact that they were singing in a much larger facility) and it was quite boring otherwise. Yes, I appreciate older church music every once-in-a-while, but God doesn't have to be put in such a small box permanently.


We ate at the food court at the ZCMI mall, across the street from Temple Square to the south. Steve was formerly a Mormon. His parents and grandparent stil are, as is his older sister. AN older brother of his is a Christian, and another older brother is agnostic. Steve is the youngest child, and still lives at home with his parents. This causes some tension at home. Steve ended up leaving the LDS CHurch when he was 18, converting to Christianity at that time. God pressed it on his heart to serve, and he met Elbert Lubas at Urbana. ("Urbana" is a Christian conference promoting mission trips, held every other year in Urbana, Illinois.) UPFC makes a showing at Urbana, and Seve and Elbert met by hanging out during downtime in Chicago.

Last March, Steve came out to Utah to work with UPFC, and made a quick stop here again during the summer. Steve and Heather picked this month to be out here to help with the mission teams that will be flooding in during the "month of spring breaks."

I later got a chance to speak with Steve and Heather about what they enjoy. Heather likes gymnastics (her favorite event is the floor) as well as backpacking and working with kids. She doesn't care too much for ballet. Steve likes to work on computers (particularly in web design using the latest programs) and paintball, backpacking, and generally most kinds of outdoor activities, especially kayaking.

As a teenager, Steve did some temple work performing "baptism for the dead". It is typical for Mormon teenagers in good standing to perform this temple work. The concept of baptism of the dead is based on an incorrect and obscure interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. Here, Paul tried to prove the existence of the resurrection of the body and even cited a heretical group's practice of performing baptism for dead people to help prove his point. This proof text is written in the third person, while all the surrounding verses are contrasted in the first person.

As Steve was on the phone, I got to talk with Heather about the frustrations that existing when talking to Mormons. It is hard to talk to people when they stop listening.

Day 1 at Temple Square

When I left the secure area of Salt Lake International Airport, I made a call to Russ to find out what I should do. Right as he told me that some friends of his were picking me up, we somehow spotted each other.

Steve and Heather loaded up their rental car with my stuff and we headed towards downtown Salt Lake City. They got in to Salt Lake just the day before I did. Both natives to Michigan, they've come out to Utah for a month in order to work with the mission team, but also to settle some things so that they could move to Utah after the summer. Steve and Heather met at a Christian camp in Montana last October, and they're engaged to be married this May in Michigan (Henry Hatch, who I would meet later this trip, will be officiating).

We drove to 300 W Temple and North Temple Street and found some free parking. We took a self-guided tour of the LDS Church's Museum of History and Art. It's really saddening how much is spent in adoration of the prophets. True adoration belongs to God alone. The hardest part was seeing the "testimony wall" exhibit, a collection of previous visitors' writings intended to convince visitors of the truthfulness of the Mormon Church. (When Mormons give a "testimony", it is typically filled with some formulaic and memorized phrases such as "I know this Church is true", "I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God", "I know the Book of Mormon is a record of God's word for us today", and so on.) Since I was starting to get a little hungry, the entire thing reminded me of a Fast and Testimony meeting. Incidentally, I'd be attending one later this trip.

Next, we went to the Assembly Hall on Temple Square and just sat to look at the architecture for a couple of minutes. There were two sets of sister missionaries in there, and one of the m appropached me to ask about my ethnicity. They told us that the Mormon Tablernacle Choir would be rehearsing tonight at 8 P.M. in the Conference Center. (The Tabernacle Choir typically rehearses on Thursday nights in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, but it is closed for a seismic retrofit.)

Next, we went to the South Temple Visitors' Center, and we saw some of those cheesy LDS TV commercials.

Leavin' on a jet plane

Actually on AirBART, soon to reach Oakland International Airport. It's hard to believe that I'm actually about to do this. It's time to set all worldly worries about finances, grad school, work stuff, e-mail, and so on behind.

You could say that at this point, I'm a little scared, but still very excited.

Monday, February 07, 2005


My support letter

Greetings! I hope that your new year has been happy thus far. I am writing to let you know about a mission/internship trip that I am making to Utah from March 3rd through March 8th. In Utah, I will be working with Russ and Tammy East of Utah Partnerships for Christ in their ministry to reach out to Mormons and equip the church of Christ to earnestly “contend for the faith” (Jude 3).

I will be working in part by assisting the staff with their day-to-day work. I'll also have time to dialogue with visitors, regulars, and workers at the Mormon headquarters of Temple Square in Downtown Salt Lake. I will also spend time serving alongside a larger mission team from Cedarville University in Ohio.

In partnership to fulfill the Great Commission in Utah, I am asking for your support. First, I am asking you to keep this trip in your prayer. Please pray that this trip deepens my faith in Christ. Pray also for opportunities to meet and talk to strangers, both Mormon and non-Mormon. By God's grace, I pray that all of our team's speaking opportunities are a chance to show God's love, mercy, and peace. Second, and much less important, I am asking you to consider sharing in the cost of this trip. Your gift of $10 to $20 or more can really make this trip's financially feasibility.

It is common among the body of Christian believers to fear “losing someone” when one of the members of the body runs into the “risky” part of the field. The apostle Paul wrote, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). Paul's words could be modernized: To win the Mormons, I became like a Mormon.

It has been a long time now that I have studied the history, doctrine, and concerns of Mormons. They are a sincerely faith-seeking group of people, but they have been deceived by wolves in sheep's clothing. Many hide their inner emptiness, and the biblical Christ is sufficient to fill that void! Friends, the field is ripe for harvest. I feel like the man in the parable of the talents who hid his talent in the ground. It is time for me to dig it up, and multiply God's blessing.

If you will pray for this trip, please let me know by e-mailing me. If you can financially contribute to this effort, please send tax-deductible donations to: Utah Partnerships for Christ, P.O. Box 150571, Ogden, UT 84415. Again, I ask for your prayers, and may God pour out His blessings in abundance.

“But let justice roll down like the mighty waters,
And righteousness flow like a never-ending stream.
Let mercy resound like the waves on the ocean:
Let praises rise high on the songs of the redeemed.”
(Meditation on Amos 5:24)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005



1. When did you trust Christ as your Savior? Tell about your conversion

I had grown up in the church of Christ my entire life, but I didn't know Jesus as my own Friend, Counselor, Lord, and Savior until my high school friend asked me to join him at a Billy Graham crusade. Sure, I had heard the essence of the message that Dr. Graham presented in Sunday School before, but it had never clicked until then that it was a message for me! This "love story" of God who lowered Himself (Phillipians 2:8), God with us, so that we might become redeemed became a powerful death to an old self and sense of how to live. Since that moment, I've been passionate to share this necessary truth with the rest of the world, raising up the message of the Gospel as truth above every other truth.

2. What interested you in going on a missions trip to Utah?

My heart has always been in ministry to the Mormon people. I grew up with many Mormon friends and it was difficult to avoid conversation about the sharp religious divide between Mormonism and orthodox Christianity. With prayer and compassion, I've always been able to approach my friends in a peaceful but strong manner. In good conversations with friends and new Mormon acquaintances, I've had the great opportunity, by God's grace, to dialogue on Mormon history, Mormon doctrine, and the true Biblical account of God's new covenant with sinful man. Though for years I tried to put off the idea of seriously "laboring in the field", God's tug on my heart keeps feeling stronger and stronger.

3. Is this your first mission trip, or have you gone on mission trips in
the past? Where did you go and what did you do? Plus, please describe any
ministry you have had at your church, a ministry, or another Christian

This application is for a first-ever missions trip. Since I was 14 years old, I have always been involved in music ministry in one way or another with whatever church I have called home. Also, I have often found myself in "personal ministry", one-on-one with Mormons. Though many Christian friends of my were worried about me losing my faith to fallacious Mormon arguments, I understood the need to meet the Mormons right where they were. It was good to seriously study their beliefs, tradition, and history so that I could be equipped to talk to them, understand the fears, and relate what is the true message that the Bible gives regarding the state of mankind and the spiritual laws governing salvation. When I took the individual person's existing understanding of their own faith seriously, when they saw me respect them and their beliefs and show religious tolerance, when they saw that I never meant to condescend, and when they saw that I had truly taken the effort to learn Mormon teaching from Mormon sources, they saw a person that they might not believe, but at least a person that they would respect and listen to. To win the Mormons, I became like a Mormon (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

4. How would you describe your walk with the Lord?

I just graduated from college, and I have to say (to be quite honest) that my first few years of school were tough. I knew I made a bad turn when I said that I would run my own life. The last several years have been refreshing. Again by God's grace, He turned my life around from the spiritual dip it was in. By his Holy Spirit, He granted me the ability to pray with honesty the words "not my will, but Yours, Abba-Father". I understand now through more daily communion and a constant life of prayer (as opposed to just stopping my Sunday-only life for short prayer) how to trust less in myself, and more in God, be comfortable realizing that I know and can do less than I thought, and rely on the wisdom that comes from truly beggining to unpeel the peace of Christ manifested in the life of the believer.

5. Are you in agreement with the UPFC statement of faith?

Yes, absolutely and completely. I believe in God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), one uncreated, eternal, omniscient God, who created all things out of nothing, by the power of his very Word and divine will. I confess in the sinful nature of mankind, first for myself and then for the rest of humanity. I believe in the account of the Gospel authors, their written record of Jesus the Messiah, born of a virgin (and not the LDS gross misinterpretation). This Word, incarnate and among us, fully human and fully divine, came to live a perfect life and be our substiutionary sacrifice. Though man is created in the image of God, we are not literal sons and daughters of God as Mormonism teaches. It is by the spirit of adoption that we cry, "Abba, Father". Unto those who believed in His name, those calling Him Lord and Savior, he granted them the right to become children of God (John 1:12). My strength is Christ alone: we can not look to "temple worthiness" recommend renewal questions as the ruler of holy living. As humans, we my try to fool ourselves into our "holier than thou" mentality, but we have been granted the law as a measure of our sin, not a checklist by which to prove ourselves worthy. No one will be declared righteous by observing the law: rather, through the law, we become concious of sin (Romans 3:20). The sacrifice of Christ is necessary and sufficient. No membership record in any earth-organized church, whether in Salt Lake City or New York City will be the measure of judgement. Without Christ, I am eternally lost. With Him, and in the companionship of the Holy Spirit regenerating my life, He is all that I need. Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay. I desire to submit to God's will, and take Him seriously, when he commands us to teach and baptize every nation and people.

6. List your three greatest strengths and 3 greatest weaknesses. Do this
with six words, three for each category.

Strengths: Compassionate, Respectful, Loving.

Weaknesses: Overachieving, Impatient, Overplanned.

7. Will you be willing to send out a prayer letter to 25-50 people seeking
their prayer and financial support which will include the website address
of UPFC (


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