On June 19, 2014, I was in the small town of Manti, Utah, in the dead-center of the state. This was the first night of the Mormon Miracle Pageant. The performance started late in the evening. Hours before the pageant started, the Christians gathered around together for prayer and musical worship; it was amazing! There were a few acoustic guitar players and a few people handed out a few papers that had worship lyrics on them; we sang in unison, and worshipped God there in the street before we broke up to start having discussions with Latter-day Saints.
As we sang, there was a group of Mormon girls on the sidewalk that I saw mocking a few of the Christians in our circle who had their hands raised in worship. I kept on singing, not letting anything distract me. I saw a few elderly LDS Church men who worked for the security at the pageant who simply crossed their arms and watched with curiosity on their faces. After Chip Thompson of Tri-Grace Ministries was done announcing the prayer over all of us, we split up to talk with people. I walked around for a little while, prayed to God as I walked, and then the conversations started.
Overall, I talked with 6 LDS folks, most of them teenagers. So many seeds were planted, and I cannot describe how amazingly well God worked through us in Utah during the hours leading up to the pageant. One Mormon girl named Taylor had talked with me for about half an hour, and I shared my whole story and testimony with her. She had so many questions for me, and in tears, she said, “I have never heard of anything you have said to me before. I really need to do some research on the Church.” I encouraged her to stay with her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because that is the most important thing. She said, “Thank you for talking to me, I really needed to hear your story, and thank you for coming here to tell this to me.”
A former LDS bishop was there in his bishop outfit (suit and a tie), and witnessing to several Mormons about his love for Mormons and why he left the LDS Church. To a group of 4 African American Mormon teenagers, this former LDS bishop said, “Did you know that your church teaches that once a person of dark skin accepts the restored gospel of Jesus Christ (Mormonism) that his skin will change to white?” The kids mocked him and made fun of this former LDS bishop in front of him.
“You know what, there is a reason you are no longer in the church, and it is because you believe the lies and silly things that people say about us,” one kid said.
“Well,” said the former bishop, “I taught this for years in the Mormon Church, so I think I know what I am talking about. I was ordained to the priesthood by a man who was ordained himself by President Thomas S. Monson. Here is a copy of my credentials in the LDS Church so you can know I am telling you the truth.”
In the Book of Mormon, sure enough, it says this: “”…their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.” Conveniently enough, the phrase “white and delightsome” was later changed to “pure and delightsome.”
I looked at this group of LDS boys and read from my Quad, “All right, guys, here it is: Read out loud for me 3 Nephi 2:12-15.” And they did. It actually says that the curse of black skin (2 Nephi 5:21) would be “taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.”
They were silenced and said nothing in response. “And you guys have never heard this before?” I asked. “No,” they said. Their mocking stopped.
Interestingly enough, in the October 1960 LDS Church Conference, LDS Prophet Spencer Kimball told of how the Indians “are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.” He continued, saying, “The [Native American] children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation” (Improvement Era, December 1960, 922-923).
How can we respond seriously to this?
Once the pageant began as it grew dark outside, Hannah and I took a seat on the front lawn of the Manti temple for the performance. It was a normal outdoor, theatrical display. All of a sudden, the scene became theologically disturbing. The play depicted a husband and wife walking around to listen to different preachers in the area of Palmyra, New York to see what they had to say in answer to their life’s questions and concerns. When these “professors of religion” could not answer their questions, Joseph Smith showed up on the scene and gave a very 180-degree spin on what the true nature of man was like.
In the play, a character approaches Joseph Smith and says, “Sir, sir, I am Robert Henshaw, and this is my wife, Mary. If that book [of Mormon] is a work of God, can you answer us this: Who are we? Where did we come from? and why are we here?”
Robert’s wife then says to Joseph Smith, “We’ve asked these things of others, but not one has answered.”
Joseph Smith says in the play word-for-word: “Ye are the children of the living God. You came to earth to take a physical body that your spirits might have a tabernacle in which to dwell, that you might have full expression. And after death, the physical body shall be resurrected and you shall return home to Him who gave you life. The Bible and the Book of Mormon beareth witness of these things!”
Mary, Robert’s wife, says to Joseph Smith: “Sir, is it true, shall we see and know each other again after death? Shall we be as we are now? You see, Robert and I love each other so deeply.”
Joseph Smith replies, “Ay, that you will. Men and women who love and marry and have children, keeping the commandments unto the Lord in the new and everlasting covenant shall remain a family unit throughout all the eternities. For you are of divine parentage, eternal in nature, and forever expanding.” Joseph Smith is still on the scene, but shakes hands with the crowd who approaches him, smiling at them.
The narrator then begins to say, “The secret of the Mormon miracle lies in its theology. In a day when man’s esteem of himself was uniformly worm-like in character, when the body was looked upon as something lowly, to be despised, Joseph Smith declared the supreme work of human personality. The body, an instrument of infinite dignity and importance, couched in the authoritative language of ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ the Mormon prophet pronounced a revolutionary concept of man and his destiny.”
Joseph Smith says, “Know ye not that the universe exists for the individual development of God’s children? Nothing is more important than man’s development: all things converge in him. All the spiritual forces of the universe find focus in him. You are the greatest miracle you will ever see: eternal in nature, forever expanding, advancing, and progressive cycles of living, loving, learning, to a goal of eternal godhood.”
Heresy! God is the greatest miracle we will ever see! Mormonism is about man, and is focused on the progression, rank, promotion, dignity, and godhood of man. If only Latter-day Saints would sing “Amazing Grace” in their ward congregations! We are wretched people, and our works are nothing but rags before our King in heaven. I will never become a god one day, because only He is worthy of such an honor! God is from above (heaven), we are from below (earth), as the Bible says. Jesus told the people, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, NIV) We did not have a pre-existence. Jesus Christ did! All things converge in God, not in man. The universe’s focus is on God, not on man. Since Mormons believe God and man are of the same essence, this is a flawed concept. Yes, after we die, we will be co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and partake of God’s divine energies, but not God’s divine essence. God and humans are not the same species.
The crowd replies by saying, “Joseph Smith is a true, latter-day prophet!” This crowd of 19th-century folk did not put this “prophet’s” words to the biblical test of prophethood that the Bible gives us. Deuteronomy 18:22 (NIV) says, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.” Deuteronomy 13:5 instructs Israelites to put false prophets to death. To see 56 failed prophecies of Joseph Smith, see Richard Baer’s The False Prophecies of Joseph Smith, (Richard Smith and Concerned Christians, can be purchased at Sandra Tanner’s Utah Lighthouse Bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah). See also, Sandra Tanner’s page of Joseph Smith’s false prophecies at: http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/falseprophecies.htm.
The pageant was eerie in ways, and I could not help realize that the Mormon miracle’s secret was man’s elevation in this life. Just like Joseph Smith said, “We are the greatest miracle we will ever see.” That is pretty disturbing.
I am not going to try to argue with a Mormon that they believe in a different Jesus if they want to say they believe in the same one. I need to meet them where they are at. They may believe in the same historical Jesus of the New Testament, but they may believe different things historically about what he did after he was resurrected. If a Mormon legitimately tells me, “Look I believe in the same Jesus as you; I am saved by grace, and there is nothing I can do to work for my salvation.” I would say, “That is awesome, and I could not agree more!” and then I would discuss other issues with them about their Church that are not true while we are in agreement on the main issue in life.
I witnessed this exact situation at Manti, where an elderly Christian man told a Mormon guy in his early 20’s, “You don’t worship the true Jesus.”
“Uh, yes I do,” said the Mormon.
“Your Jesus is a false god and you need to come to the true Jesus,” the Christian said.
I was so embarrassed, and actually sided with the Mormon. “Look,” I said to the two of them, “If this man who is LDS says he is saved by God’s full grace, then how am I to not believe him? His Mormon Church teaches a different definition of God’s grace, and we could research that and prove that, but if this individual is so sure of God’s grace being enough for his salvation, don’t start saying to him that He does not really know Jesus. Only God knows His heart.” We had a loving conversation after that, but this Mormon was so turned off by what this elderly Christian man was saying, that he did not carry on further in talks with the older Christian man. The Christian man was trying to ‘play by the book’ to refer to President Hinckley’s statements that Mormons worship a “different Christ” than the rest of Christendom does. I agree that some Mormons may worship a different Christ (if they believe that Christ’s atonement was insufficient and that we are saved by grace only “after all we can do” 2 Nephi 25:23). But if a Mormon sincerely believes that they have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then why not make that a starting point in conversation? After all, when I believed in Mormonism myself, I believed in the true Jesus Christ, just the wrong church and some of the wrong facts about the nature of the Godhead and of Christ. I still had my beliefs in God, but I believed many unbiblical things about God. I still knew that I needed Jesus Christ and that I was saved by His grace.
If a Mormon professes Christ in this way, encourage them to stay in their faith in Christ! However, I am not compromising the biblical Christian Faith in saying this: of course we must point out the fallacies in LDS doctrine and the marks of Joseph Smith being a false prophet. As Greg Johnson of Standing Together Ministries says, “God knows the heart of the individual, and so for us to say who is and who is not saved is a position we should not and cannot take, a judgment we are not in a position to render… But I can say that it is entirely possible that… Mormons could be saved Christians in that they have a sincere and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, before you get nervous and suppose that I am heretical, there are fundamental doctrines of Mormonism that I see as inconsistent with historic orthodox or biblical Christianity. I would not say that the differences between our two faith traditions are minimal. They are not. As an Evangelical I would not encourage a person who claims to be a Mormon Christian to remain where they are…” (Bob Millet and Greg Johnson, Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical), 89-90.
Greg continues by saying this very important point in Bridging the Divide: “I am convinced that when people are in relationship they have a far greater chance of communicating with and influencing others, particularly in the pursuit of spiritual truth. So to the Evangelical community I would ask that we be more empathetic of the Mormons’ feelings when we attempt to share with them where we think they are wrong.” (Ibid, 107-108).
Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
Let the bars of contentions come down so that the God of heaven can mold us like a dependent-on-God ball of clay that we are.
May God bring us closer to His Word and may we love Latter-day Saints like Christ loves them! 🙂