Day 1: Palmyra, NY and the Hill Cumorah Pageant

Yesterday, Tuesday, July 12th, 2016, my grandmother Lee and I flew out to Rochester, NY. We will be here until July 17. From Rochester, we drove 40 minutes east to a village called Palmyra, which is where Joseph Smith lived from 1816 til around 1830, before moving to Kirtland, Ohio and Far West, Missouri. Hence, the story of Mormonism begins here.

Why is this important? I answered God’s call to come here to Palmyra. An obscure little town in upstate New York draws thousands of Mormons each night, from July 8-9 and 12-16th to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Joseph Smith believed that in 1823, an angel named Moroni showed up in his bedroom here in Palmyra and relayed information about golden plates buried in a nearby hill- Cumorah. Moroni said that Joseph must meet him at the Hill Cumorah every year to the day for 4 years, and then Joseph could unearth the golden plates.

Mormons believe that a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas was recorded on the plates and buried by their last prophet, Moroni, before their civilization was annihilated in 421 A.D. This group of people, known as the Nephites, supposedly came to the Americas from Israel around 600 B.C. Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel, rebelled against the family and became Lamanites, and Mormons believe that God cursed the Lamanites with dark skin, or what the Book of Mormon calls “skin of blackness.” (2 Nephi 5:21).

Mormons have a phenomenal pageant with hundreds in the cast, and the production is the 3rd largest in the world. The pageant starts at 9:15pm every night.

I am a missionary out here under the covering of CRC (Christian Research & Counsel), and it is amazing how people come here speak the truth to the Mormons. CRC puts on a “Plain and Precious Things about Christ and the Bible” presentation and teaching sessions in Palmyra’s Main Street Park every day this week at 2pm. Such topics as the reliability of the Bible, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the need for a Savior, and worldviews are discussed, and several pastors from local churches are present to teach and train Christians to be equipped to speak with Mormons.

Now, there are some Christians out here who are completely independent who are called “Screechers” and some that are known as “Street Preachers.” Screehers are known as those who mock Mormonism by shouting, blowing shofars at the pageant entrance, dressing up in Satan costumes while holding up the Book of Mormon in mockery, and those who do those sorts of things. I do not endorse those methods, nor are those methods sanctioned by those in the ministry outlet that I am a part of. That is not my philosophy of reaching people and I think it often turns more Mormons off to Christianity than it does lead them into Christianity. Street Preachers are some people from local churches that come out to share the Word of God on the streets, not in an abrasive way necessarily, but there can be those who do this.

I will not go so far as to say they are not brothers in the Lord because they preach the gospel, and some one may really hear out what they have to say, but we are not called to bash and bash and bash the darkness, we are called to put on the light. If we fight darkness, darkness can comprehend what we are doing, that is why Mormons’ persecution complex pops up within them and they get even more feelings that they are right because of how ridiculous some Christians can be with their approach. However, we are called to be a light IN the darkness. When we are the light in the darkness, the dark cannot comprehend it! The dark definitely notices the light, but it cannot understand and comprehend it. This is why when we showed up, even though I was wearing my white shirt and tie, Mormons can pick up when someone is not a member; and it is because this is a spirit behind it. Our battles are not against flesh and blood, but against spirits and principalities. Read Ephesians 6. This is why there were several Mormons who were elderly and middle-aged who were sitting in lawn chairs as we walked by and they studied us and stared, and they looked uncomfortable in their spirits, and you could tell that there was a war going on in the spirit realm between the Christians and the Mormons. It didn’t matter how you dressed or what you looked like on the outside. People watch. People observe. And people know and can ‘pick up’ when something is different around you. That is why uneasiness, tension, and contention occurs. This is not a bad thing, it is bound to happen when the truth comes forth and shines in the darkness. This light that we have is not our own, it is God’s light. We do not get the glory for anything we do, we must give God the glory.

When the seats for around 9,000 people are set up on the grassy prairie of the west side of the Hill Cumorah, that is where I go to talk to Mormons.

All we did is drove our car into the pageant grounds like everyone else (it feels like a mini-state fair with food and drink tents set up) and we go to the seating area. When this happens, the area floods with Mormon missionaries and the pageant cast members who have copies of the Book of Mormon and what they call Interest Cards. We talk and dialogue with whomever comes up to us and approaches us, which is a great opportunity that the Lord gives for us to do this kind of conversation.

I met up with Pastor Tony Goddard of Christian Community Church of East Williamson, New York at Fellowship Bible Church in Palmyra yesterday and met other Christian missionaries. There are guys who are older, army vets, younger teenage girls and guys, people of all ages, socio-economic background, and ethnic backgrounds, who come together in one accord to reach the lost with the pure and simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dinner was at 5:00pm yesterday at the church and it was a phenomenal time to fellowship with other believers. Pastor Jon Bransford and his family were there, Sue Grape and her husband were there, and it was a great time to meet everyone.

I partnered up with a Christian man named Brad, and he was my missionary companion last night at the pageant. Two Mormons, one named Elder Lester (from Gilbert, AZ) and the other named Elder Berrong (from South Weber, UT), came and talked to us, and we talked for an hour straight. The conversation was fruitful and we definitely planted seeds of truth. Elder Lester is not a missionary yet, he described himself as pre-missionary. My heart broke for these 2 Mormons young men because they were sweating bullets when we shared our testimony to them and the things from LDS sources we had issues with concerning Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. We were not there as “Anti’s” as they call Anti-Mormons. This is why we are very careful as Christians to be culturally sensitive (without compromising the Truth) with them because any wrong move or wordage can make a light-switch go off in their heads that we are Anti-Mormon, which we are not. We are anti-Mormonism and anti-Mormon doctrine, which we need to be, but we are not anti-Mormon because we love the Mormon people. Jesus Christ created Mormon people, just like he did Baptists, Methodists, and all people on this earth. We are called to love them.

Look at he woman at the well in the Bible. Jesus confronted her and told her the truth, but not out of hatred. He came to her WHERE SHE WAS AT. We need to reach people where they are at and at their level instead of assuming we know what they believe. Just because the LDS Church’s First Presidency and their teachings manuals teach the official doctrine does not mean that all Mormons are rank-in-file along with that. There were several that we met who were from other LDS splinter churches.

One of the ironies with the “restoration” of Mormonism was that the whole point was Joseph Smith seeing all the denominations, sects, and branches of Christianity, and seeing how they contended against one another, which is a legitimate concern obviously. What Mormons may not realize is that there have been literally hundreds of Mormon sects and offshoots from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s not just the LDS Church. So, which of those offshoots is the “true” church? A majority of these little groups believe they are the true church and all the others are wrong. So, the irony is that Joseph Smith did not solve this problem, neither did the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

As a matter of fact, we spoke with a man around 55 years old who was in one of those splinter groups. There were at least a few dozen of them there at the pageant, and they wore blue polo shirts with a picture of the gold plates on them that said “BMF- Witnesses for Jesus.” Brad and I spoke with this man for roughly 2 hours. He said that they are called “Restorationists” and belong to the Zion Bound sect in Independence, Missouri. They believe in the Book of Mormon, but do not believe that the LDS Church is the true church. This man straight-up denied that Joseph Smith believed in or practiced polygamy (he said that Brigham Young started it), they do not believe in temples, baptism for the dead, the restoration of the priesthood, and they even question the First Vision account that Joseph Smith had! He said that they don’t worship Joseph Smith and venerate him like the mainstream LDS Church does, they just see Joseph Smith as the vehicle in which the Book of Mormon was brought forth. They believe that Joseph Smith had the seer stone and put it in the hat to translate the Book of Mormon, just as the LDS Church just came out with for the first time publicly last year.

When talking with this man, Brad and I found much common ground with him, but the only thing we disagreed on was that he believed the Book of Mormon was a true, historical account, and he believed that North America was the location of the future city of New Jerusalem. Also, he did not believe in the rapture of the church, which I obviously do.

I got to share with this man my knowledge of the End Times, the Book of Revelation, the feasts of Israel under the Old Covenant and how their patterns are being fulfilled since Christ; this includes the Feast of Trumpets, which is a foreshadowing of the Rapture, and talked to him about Revelation 4:1 being the point in the the Book of Revelation when the rapture takes place. Revelation 1-3 took place is the past, and Revelation 4:1 is when the rapture takes place, because John was caught up into heaven, and Revelation chapters 4-22 takes place in the future. This is why in Revelation 4-22, the church is no longer mentioned anymore! This is because the Rapture takes place in 4:1 right before the Great Tribulation starts, and Christ deals with those who are left behind in the chapters following chapter 4. God’s dealings with the people on earth during the Tribulation are with the unbelievers who are left on earth and the Jews, and His Church which is in Heaven during the Tribulation, which is why we are in Heaven during that time receiving our rewards at the Bema judgment, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb takes place the last year of the Tribulation, so that we will come back WITH Christ at His Second Coming to rule and reign with Christ for 1,000 years during the Millennium.

The man said, “Wow, I’ve never heard this stuff before… I really need to read up on this and check it out.” I’m no expert on the Book of Revelation and the Last Days, but after studying Perry Stone’s materials and ministry and this subject since I was 13, it’s just an area that I am passionate about and able to touch on when the occasion calls for it.

This was such a revelation to him, and many others from CRC on our missionary team spoke with other Restorationists. They even have their own version of the Book of Mormon, and they thanked us for being there, as they do not appreciate the Mormon views and think the Mormons are led astray.

I cannot put into words the amount of spiritual warfare I have endured because of this missions trip. My wife will tell you and testify of this, as she experienced the dreams I had in the night, the burden for intercessory prayer that has weighed upon me. I have had to pray in tongues when I’ve had no other words to say. As Jude 1:20 says, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit…” we are to pray in the Holy Spirit. This relates to the Book of Romans when it talks about God interceeding for us when we have nothing left to give.

I have pleaded with the Lord, wrestled with Him, sought Him, prayed to Him, and heard from Him, and any time we or someone says they hear from God, what they hear MUST be in agreement with the Word (the Bible) and confirmed by 2-3 witnesses. (See 2 Corinthians 13:1 and Mark 16:20).

I received grievous attacks from the devil since the end of April of 2016. They have been literally non-stop until now. I had it so bad this past Sunday and even the night leading up to this trip that my wife said, “This trip is under so much attack because the devil knows what is going to happen there.” This is so true, and I cannot explain the attacks, but if anyone doesn’t believe in spiritual warfare, I’ll tell you, it’s real.

My grandmother got an infection in her foot on Monday, the day before our trip, and went in to get help for it the night before we left. I had several hindrances that tried to stop me from coming on the trip. We ran into so many issues when we arrived at the airport with our rental car and I can go on and on with the attacks the devil has tried to place on me. He has wanted to get me so physically worn out so that I cannot function and be a missionary out here, and he has tried to get me to give up on ministry, my calling as a minister of the gospel, and trying to give up on reaching the Mormons.

But, there is good news. Devil, I have something to say to you: You are wrong! I will not give up in this fight. The Apostle Paul went through divers temptations and trials, and he still held his ground, because His ground WAS Christ. I will do the same, and I will push on not in my own strength, but in the One who gives me this strength. I will not give up, and I will be serving the Lord and reaching out to Mormons until either the Rapture takes place, or until I am called home to be with the Lord, whichever happens first.

I used to not believe in spiritual warfare when I was a Lutheran, because no one ever talked about that kind of stuff. Everyone just went to church because it was the thing you do, and assumed you were a Christian because you were raised in it, went through confirmation, and just simply went to church. That used to be me, but while I was in that, I realized something was missing. It was a personal relationship with the Lord, which is ripe in the New Testament. I didn’t believe in dreams and visions, and spiritual warfare until I started experiencing it myself. I mean, this was God’s means of leading me out of believing in Mormonism and believing in Christ of the Bible! So I have to really implore my fellow Christians who do not believe that God speaks to us today, who do not believe in God’s miracles in these days, and who do not believe in speaking in tongues, prophecy, and having literal dreams from God, I have this to say: I have experienced these first-hand, and know literally dozens of people delivered from alchoholism, homosexuality, fornication, atheism, Satanism, the occult, Islam, etc. Read Joel chapter 2 and Acts chapter 2. God clearly communicates to His people in these last days through dreams and visions; it’s amazing! Plus, I was so wrapped up in Mormonism because that is all I was studying during the daytime when I was 14 and 15 that I believe God needed to get my attention during the nighttime when I was asleep and He did just that!

Dreams from God in the night were how I came out of Mormonism and into a saving relationship with the Lord, so it amazes me that there are Christians who don’t believe in it. We need to hear from God in order to get saved in the first place, so how can Christians really think that we can’t hear from God? How can we have a one-sided relationship with Him, only praying to Him but not believing we can hear back? The Bible is the LOGOS word, meaning, the Word of God. The RHEMA word is the Word of God revealed to us personally as God speaks to us. If Christians do not believe in personal revelation and having dreams and visions from God, then how can they explain God doing that with me in order to come out of something false? How can they believe that they don’t exist when there are hundreds of Muslims around the world who have been having actual visions of Jesus Christ appearing to them?

You see, a man with a theory is never at the mercy of a man with an experience.

Muslims get saved through visions, and if that’s the case, then we should thank God that He leads people out of their past whether it is Islam or Mormonism, because sometimes a dream or a vision is what it is going to take for that person to believe in it! Look at Thomas in the Bible. He actually needed to see the holes in Christ’s hands. Some people, like me, were so wrapped up in Mormonism that God needed to use dreams to get my attention, and praise God for that.

I will make another post sometime tomorrow, as time permits. I am so busy out here today and the rest of the trip that I will do my best to post an update on each day when I can.

Please pray for me today as I go into battle once more, and face the enemy with the Light of Christ. The enemy is not the Mormon people; the enemy is the devil and his lies and false doctrines. May God’s favor, blessing, and light shine forth today as we bring the good news to the captives, for this is my prayer, and I ask that it may be yours too. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

 

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