“So…what is truth?” the young LDS man asked the room. Here I was in a classroom filled with 20 or so other young men who have all been raised in the mormon church. It was the first full day of our week long Utah trip and I had made my way into one of the LDS Sunday school classes. Seeing the opportunity during the discussion that followed, I simply raised my hand and asked a couple questions. “Where do we find truth?…If two people claim something is true and they contradict, where do we go to know what is right?” The answers that followed were very diverse, but eventually the men got to the answer most mormons give you about truth, “I prayed and asked god and he told me the book of mormon is true.”
“But what if someone else prays about something else that contradicts the book of mormon and they also say god said it is true?” while I asked these questions I heard someone from the back exclaim, “Man, I love your questions!” I made note of who said it. I’ll call him “Conner” for privacy. Conner shared his thoughts and the class wrapped up, afterward I made an effort to connect with him. I was able to share some contradictions between the book of mormon and the Bible, share my testimony, and show him some things from Ephesians chapter 2. We connected and later he texted me saying, “I enjoyed our conversation! I appreciate your advise to better study Ephesians 2, it’s such a beautiful chapter.”
“The Blue House” where we stayed all week
Group meeting with brothers Russ and Joseph who run the Blue House
This class I sat in was the second part of an LDS Sunday service. The first part is closer to a church service, there are singing of hymns, the LDS version of communion, and a message or testimony given. It is impossible to describe with words how strange it was to sit in on this service. LDS people use similar language as christians, “the gospel”, “grace”, “the spirit”, etc. But when they say these terms they mean completely different things than what you and I believe according to the Bible. For instance, the gospel according to the LDS church is a works-based gospel. When they hear the word “gospel” they do not think of the “good news” of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and raising from the dead. They think of the “ordinances” and acts that Jesus provided as a means for us to work for our salvation. As we were told by multiple ex-mormons (now Christians) the gospel to LDS is “everything” it’s all the stuff they have to do in order to be saved.
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”-LDS ARTICLE OF FAITH #3
Perhaps the strangest moment of the service was when the congregation sang the LDS hymn, “Praise to the man.” When you read the lyrics it becomes clear that this song is idolatrous, it is worship to Joseph Smith. “Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven” the group sang. Then the next moment, they were on the next page singing a classic hymn we might sing in a christian church about the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ. It was, in a word, jarring.
The next day in the afternoon, we visited the main LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The temple itself is the building in the back left of the picture above, it is currently going through construction. While at the temple, we split up into teams, took some tours and had conversations with the LDS people who work there. Below you can see the main conference center and Julie and Christine from our team sharing with two mormon missionaries.
We walked across the street from the main temple to the LDS run family ancestry center. (The reason they care so much about ancestry is so that they can do baptisms for the dead, but I won’t go much into that now). We were talking with a man about the center and eventually asked him this question, “What is your favorite verse in the book of mormon?” he told us and soon we were having a spiritual discussion. I asked him the question, “How do you know the book of mormon is true?” He turned to Moroni 10:4 which is the driving force behind that common response, “I prayed and asked God and he revealed to me that it is true.” I asked him, “What if someone else prayed about a different book that contradicts the book of mormon and they claim god also said it is true?” I forget if it was that question or the next but soon after he threw up his hand, pointed to the temple, and said, “Hey I just work here, if you want answers you can go across the street!” then he walked away.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”MORONI 10:4 IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
Throughout the day I was texting back and forth with my new friend Conner, who invited me to a Bible study happening at his ward that night. “A Bible study?” Joseph, our brother who lives in Utah and helped set up our outreaches said, “I’ve never heard of them doing a Bible study.” Apparently, this is something kind of new for the LDS church, but after a few minutes of being there it was clear this was a Bible study like none other. They were studying Genesis 3, but doing so with a guidebook from the LDS church while looking at other mormon scriptures. (The LDS church has 4 scriptures: The KJV Bible, the book of mormon, doctrine and covenants, and the pearl of great price.) The study was on the very doctrine I found the most appalling while studying mormonism before our trip- the LDS view of the fall.
The LDS view of the fall states that Adam and Eve were glad they sinned against God. Moses 5:11 (in the pearl of great price) states plainly that Eve was “glad” (about the fall). Jared and I were the ones from the team sitting in this study, and we mostly just listened, but as graciously as possible pointed out towards the end that this is not what the Bible teaches.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”ROMANS 5:18
“For the wages of sin is death.”ROMANS 6:23A
After the study Conner and I started talking about the fruit of the Spirit together. “I just want to do anything that helps me do these things no matter where it is from.” “Okay” I replied, “Does that mean you want to avoid the things that make you do the list before it?” (Remember in Galatians 5 before the fruit of the spirit Paul lists the rotten works of the flesh, one of which is idolatry). He agreed yes and I didn’t think much more of that, but as we were wrapping up our conversation I made the connection. “Hey Conner, you guys sang a hymn during the service yesterday that stood out to me…it said ‘hail to the prophet’.” “Oh yeah…” Conner chuckled, “I’m not particularly found of that hymn.” Here was a dedicated member of the LDS church, while versed in his scriptures, having been on his mission and inferring that he disapproved of his own doctrine. I was able to point out, “If you’re hailing someone who isn’t God…that is idolatry.”
I have often been told that a lot of times you end up going on a short term missions trip for “that one person” or “that one encounter” and it makes it all worth it. Utah was abundantly fruitful, but if I had just made that one connection I did with Conner it would have been worth it all. The wonderful thing for you reading this is that you were there with me. These connections and conversations we had in Utah are the spiritual fruit of your prayers and support, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sending me. Please take a moment right now and pray for Conner.
Praise Reports/ Prayer Requests
- Praise Reports
- Amazing fruit in and divine appointments in Utah
- The Lord’s provision and guidance
- The Lord continually opening doors to travel and spread his gospel
- Prayer Requests
- For “Conner” and others who heard the Gospel in Utah
- For the current full time gospel workers in Utah
- For the Lord to send out laborers to plant churches in all the world
- Vision and wisdom in life and ministry decisions