Monday July 2, 2012: We began our day in Salt Lake City by visiting Sandra Tanner, president of Utah Lighthouse Ministries. She gave us an outstanding overview of the Mormon belief system and answered questions. She has been ministering to the Mormons for over 50 years. Armed with her boundless energy and sense of humor, she served as a tremendous inspiration for all of us as we began our day.
We then traveled to temple square and divided into partnerships. I ended up going on the conference center tour with Brandon Sims. Our Latter Day Saints (LDS) tour guide was Richard. As we moved through the various rooms, our group was so small I had a chance to ask multiple questions.
In one of the rooms Richard showed us pictures of the LDS Apostles and he mentioned how they had restored the historic Christian Church by bringing back the priesthood and apostleship. He said the LDS church was the only one that followed the Biblical model. I said the Bible teaches that in order to be an apostle you have to have seen the resurrected Jesus. All the disciples met the resurrected Jesus and Paul was given a special revelation. Did the LDS apostles ever see the resurrected Jesus? He said he felt they had had an experience of the resurrected Jesus. I didn’t press his answer further. The tour doesn’t always make it easy to challenge responses to questions. I could say I had an experience with the resurrected Jesus. Does that make me an apostle? Without a face to face encounter with the resurrected Jesus, the LDS leaders are not apostles according to the Bible.
In the next room were paintings of the Presidents of the LDS Church. I reminded him he had said their church follows the Biblical model for church structure; so where in the Bible do we see presidents? He said the Bible doesn’t teach it but Peter was the early leader and could be thought of as a president. Again a weak answer but I let it go. I just wanted him to think.
When we reached a painting that showed the death of Mormon with Moroni standing over him and golden plates nearby, Brandon asked about archeology. Are there any artifacts to support the Book of Mormon (BOM)? He said no. He said the problem is no one knows the exact location of where the events took place. He said he knew of a university who would not fund a professor’s search for artifacts in South America. I asked him why the church doesn’t fund this professor’s efforts. They have lots of money. He ignored my question. He believed in the future someone would find the artifacts to support the Book of Mormon. I asked him if the lack of historical support bothered him and he said no. He said he believed the truth of the BOM by faith. Throughout the week this became a standard answer for the LDS. When they don’t have an answer or supporting evidence they say, “I take it by faith.” According to the Bible, faith without supporting evidence is “blind faith” or useless faith.
As we walked away from the picture, moving to the next room I asked, didn’t the plates weigh a lot? He acknowledged they did. Didn’t Joseph Smith have to carry them a long ways at different times? He said about a mile or mile and a half (actually closer to 3 miles). Wouldn’t that be impossible? He didn’t answer me.
On the roof top the picture on the wall mentioned the words “This Gospel.” I asked him, what is this Gospel? He said it is the good news. What does that mean? He said that Jesus came to save us. I told him the Gospel as I understand it was that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins; He lived a perfect life making Him the perfect sacrifice. Through Jesus we are forgiven and live forever with God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in heaven. I said Brandon and I have the assurance of the highest heaven, do you? He said yes. I don’t believe he was being truthful with me but again I couldn’t press him further as we moved on.
Once we were outside the center and the tour was over, both Brandon and I challenged him and his beliefs about the Trinity. Richard tried to share about how the Doctrine of the Trinity was developed at the council of Nicea. This was totally false and I gave him background on the council of Nicea. I told him a group called the Arians tried to say Jesus was a god not the God. I said this belief was similar to Mormonism. In the end the council voted and around 300 supported the Doctrine of the Trinity and the Arians receive 2 votes. The church totally rejected the belief that Jesus was a separate and distinct god. Arianism, a similar belief to Mormonism, was called a heresy. When I finished he said he would rather believe in the vision of Joseph Smith against the 300 voting members at the council at Nicea. I said these early church fathers had to vote against the idea of believing in more than one God because there are so many verses in the Bible that clearly teach there is only one God. He then said either Joseph Smith was a prophet of God or a major fraud. Richard then shook our hands and said goodbye. We would have loved to have continued that discussion.
Afterwards we all got back together and shared our experiences. All of us got into multiple exciting discussions. It had been a great team experience sharing our faith and putting a stone in the shoes of the missionaries.
After dinner at the blue house (our residence) we visited a LDS singles family home fellowship at one of the wards in Ogden. As we drove to the location we saw about 40 young adult Mormons praying before a meal. We didn’t know how to invite ourselves to their gathering so we drove away to discuss strategies. Norma suggested we just tell them who we are. I volunteered because I needed a reason to be among all these young people. I went up to one of the leaders and asked him if we could join their group for the event. I told them we were not LDS and we were a church group visiting from San Diego to learn more about the Mormon faith. They welcomed us with open arms and all of us made new LDS friends. For over 3 hours the group of over 40 Mormons introduced us to the workings of the church and discussed a variety of topics. I spoke with the son of the Bishop and helped him understand the doctrine of the Trinity. He is headed soon to Mexico City for his two year mission. Many of us exchanged contact information to keep the relationships ongoing. Overall it was a great day!