Sunday, June 22, 2008
Our Utah trip wouldn't be complete without enjoying some of God's incredible beauty of creation and taking some time to hike around in the canyons near Manti. We decided Brett's car wasn't dirty enough and so drove through dirt and mud to spend the afternoon at Milky Falls. We ate dinner with Chip and Jamie Thompson's house (http://www.trigrace.org/) and had a great meal with great fellowship. One of the benefits of having a smaller group this year is that we have really connected more with the community of believers in Utah and those that faithfully travel from all over the US to come and share at Manti every year. I was also able to help lead worship on the streets of Manti before the pageant Saturday night. Worship is an interesting component of our presence there. It has become a tradition to pray and worship prior to witnessing every night. As we have learned from former Mormons that while they are drawn to the authenticity and passion of worship, they are many times confused or scared by it as well. They can often think that using guitars and drums are irreverent and the idea of bowing down (as we always end with an accapella "He is Our God" and "We Exalt Thee") is completely foreign to them.
Mindy, Melissa and Brittni were again transformed into three of the 34 wives of Joseph Smith, dressed in pioneer style. It was still amazing to see the line of women about half a block long. This was just such a creative way to help Christians engage Mormons about the ideas of not only polygamy, but also adultery (11 of the wives were concurrently married to other men). As the week progressed, each of us became bolder and bolder, trusting in God to place compassion over fear and get into conversations quickly. Saturday night was definitely the highest LDS to Christian ratio, so we were in conversation for the entire night. Josh, Daniel and I were able to have a great conversion with a former Catholic couple who were LDS about how the LDS plan of salvation is truly impossible to attain, the reliability of the Bible and about how our beliefs can not make false things true, no matter how passionately we believe. Daniel and I had a great conversation with a philosophy major at BYU named Cody who was the most evangelical sounding Mormon I had ever met (he said among other things that it was only by the grace of Christ and His righteousness that we were saved - but after defining the meanings of the words it was the same impossible gospel of Mormonism). What started as a very frustrating conversation because "forsaking all his sins" and "denying all ungodliness" to him really meant recognising that "sin is bad, something we shouldn't do and need to try hard not to do" became a really unique conversation with a Mormon who didn't simply bear his testimony but responded to reason. We spoke from around 8:00 - 10:30 (he kept talking with us rather than watch the pageant) and in that time we were able to get under the rhetoric and show him the differences between the God, Jesus and gospel of the Bible and the LDS church.
We cleaned up and then drove through the night, leaving Manti around midnight and arriving early this morning to the surprise of our families and friends. What an amazing trip serving an amazing and good God who blessed us with great conversations that will hopefully continue to be a pebble in the shoes for many, many Mormons, great fellowship with brave brothers and sisters in Christ who are on the front lines year round and who really are like family to us and safe travel. There were too many great conversations to share here, so please ask any one of us and we would love to tell you all about them and how God has used this trip to powerfully transform each of us.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
This afternoon we had lunch and then recorded the podcast for pleaseconvinceme.com with Jim over at Solid Rock Café, which is Chip’s College Ministry across from Snow College. Once we finished up with that, Chip is preparing to paint new parking spaces outside of the café, so he had us clean up and prepare the street for painting they would do later that day. It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun!!! We finished the cleaning and then went over to visit Jaimie who gave us some amazing cookies!!!
Oh and the wonderful Miss Junelle prepared the most wonderful meal for us this evening!! We barbequed at her house…the food was great, the company was great, it was just an all around good time.
We high tailed it to the Manti pageant where we did the demonstration of Joseph Smith’s wives. There were SO many people there!! There were a lot of conversations going on!!! Melissa and Brittni had great conversation with two Mormons. One of them mostly listened while the other talked…and at one point in the conversation as he was asking questions about Christianity and truths, he asked “How can I have a personal relationship with Jesus?”, “How can I know I am going to heaven?”, and “How can I know I am forgiven?” all in truly interested ways.
Tim was pretty excited because through one of his conversations, he overheard a voice he recognized, and what do ya know it’s Matt Slick!!! Tim was so stoked! So he then had a discussion with him asking his view on a few things.
As the evening was closing, we realized we had lost Brett, a member of the team…clearly we were lacking. So we have a hole in the team. A void, really. We’ve found something to fill that void….He still has short black hair, still is short, and has brown eyes….but he also has four legs. Brittni got dog and is bringing it home! So we figure, that’s a fair trade right, lose Brett, gain the puppy??? Just playin Brett!! Haha.
It has been a long day, and we are all exhausted!!! Tomorrow is the last day at Manti!!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Then this evening Melissa, Brittni, and Mindy helped with the demonstration of Joseph Smith's 34 wives at the Manti Pageant! You should have seen how big of a display it was!!! Seeing everyone cross the street even was a big ordeal. It is a big impact to see just how many people that really is. I think these visuals that they have started doing are not only great conversation starters, but huge eye openers for LDS members. One man came up and asked, "So are you all Emma?"....some are truly blinded to the history of their church. Lots of great conversations stemmed from the demonstration, and everyone was really excited when we got back today. It was a lot easier to get into conversations today, which was encouraging for everyone. Brett leaves tomorrow early, which we are all very sad about. He has done an excellent job leading the way for us on this trip and we are thankful that he has taken the time to come. He has such a way of communicating with people, no matter who they are, or what belief system, and we learn so much from him. We really appreciate him being here. Please keep him in your prayers as he is traveling tomorrow. Also, he is leaving for a speaking engagement and has a busy week ahead of him. Pray that he finds time for everything (including rest!).
As for the team, we are going to training in Ephraim, then to Chip's to help however we can, a barbeque with Junelle (yay!), and ending with the Manti pagaent (which Friday is said to be the pinnacle). We are excited for these last couple days we have to share the truth with the wonderful people of Utah. Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting us back at home! We will see you soon!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
We also went to the Bee Hive House, and it seemed the tour had changed a lot this year...Our tour group was larger so that could have been part of it, but they seemed to leave out a lot more information than normal, and they seemed to also be a lot more vague even with our questions. For example, when asked why Brigham Young's room was separate from Emma's and the answer was skimmed over very quickly. The sister said that he would often work late at night or have guests come and would not want to disturb the rest of the household. Jimmy made a good point, it's funny that he had a meeting room to do just that, meet guests and work in...but a good justification for the sisters at the time I suppose.
The team rushed back to Manti for the pageant in the evening, which was a little slow going at first. It seemed there were more Christians out there than Mormons...and the Mormons out there weren't really wanting to talk. Then, Chip brought out his demonstration of Joseph Smith looking into the hat at the seer stone, interpreting the gold plates to the scribe. THAT is when the real action started. BOY did that cause a commotion!!! There were a lot of young people there (teenagers) so, a lot of emotional reactions.
Melissa had a really good conversation to a young girl named Heaven. Heaven was there with her friend and originally Melissa was talking with Heaven's friend. She was quite angry and ended up walking off. Melissa then took that opportunity to talk to Heaven who had sat there quietly during the conversation. Heaven opened up with Melissa about how her mom had taught her Baptist doctrine, but had problems with drugs, which forced Heaven to go live with her LDS aunt. That is how she ended up in Utah, questioning her beliefs, and not sure what was true. She was starting to think that maybe there was some truth to the Mormon faith. After Melissa pointed out a few things, Heaven realized the truth and they exchanged email addresses. Heaven told Melissa that she doesn't believe what the LDS church teaches and that she thinks that God wanted the two of them to talk today!!!!
It was kind of a rough day all around for everyone...it was hard to get out there I think. It was a little discouraging and frustrating today because it was so different on the streets. We are preparing for tomorrow which will be us going to Ephraim Bible Church in the morning, going to the BYU area and going door to door, and in the evening we are coming back to the pageant where Brittni, Melissa, and Mindy will be part of a demonstration of Joseph Smith's 34 wives as a discussion starter. Keep the comments coming, today hit us a little bit I think, so I think we need a little bit of encouragement coming our way!!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Singing songs of worship to God this morning with was a joyful experience that brought us together, worshiping the one true God, and a good reminder for everyone (both those that live here all year, and those that are just visiting) that we are the church. Bill McKeever did a thorough discussion titled, "Examining the Story of the Gold Plates" where he discussed all the inconsistencies and lies with the "gold plates" Joseph Smith found. He also gave a helpful demonstration of his own using weights on how unrealistic the LDS belief in their own history is...a great visual to use with mormons!
We had a free afternoon that we used to study and prepare before we headed off to the Manti pageant in the evening, but first we had to make a quick trip to the local Wal-Mart pick up a few things. Brett and Tim ran in and the rest of the gang just stayed in the car rather than going through the hassle of all of us getting out. Brett has been a little sassy...a little TOO sassy especially for it only being the second day, and maybe as a peace offering he left the keys in the car with A/C running...BIG mistake. As soon as they were out of sight, we moved the car to the complete opposite end of the parking lot and waited for their return. You should have seen the look on their faces!!! haha. We had our fun. :)
An afternoon of all of the team studying (and Brett sleeping) we walked over to pageant area and had a short time of worship and started in on discussions. As we got home tonight, and talked about those discussions...this year truly does seem to be different. I think we truly do grow a heart for this people more and more every year, and that shows. We still approach them with the truth, but it is done so with love. So many of the conversations were so productive, and the mormons involved in them really wanted to listen and discuss. Praise God that these people are open to hearing the truth!
We are going to Salt Lake City tomorrow and then coming back for the Pageant in the afternoon....meaning lots of discussions will take place tomorrow, so thank you for your continued prayers back home, you are just as much in this as we are!!!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Because we all rode up in Brett's car together, we had a really good opportunity to talk with each other along the way and listen to a few podcasts, since we had a little time to kill. There was good discussion, preparing us already for the week ahead of us. We have a unique team this year in that it is small and also that we have all been here before...but each time is always different and brings it's own challenges so we always need and appreciate everyone's prayers from home!
Tomorrow we are going to Ephraim Church of the Bible and will spend the afternoon studying. In the evening we will go to the pageant in Manti and begin discussions with Mormons on the streets.
We are all pretty exhausted from traveling today and are ready for a good night's sleep and to begin what we came here to do tomorrow!
Each year our group takes an important trip to Utah to reach Mormons with the Gospel of GRACE. For those of you who may not even understand what it is that Mormonism teaches, please take the time to read some of the articles in our MORMONISM section.
This trip is controversial to many people who may not understand WHY we would want to try to convince people who seem so outwardly Godly. In fact, many Christians have criticized us for even approaching a people group whom they think of as Christian. But it's important to understand that Mormons have rejected every important doctrine of Christianity, including the nature of Jesus and the nature of God the Father.
But most importantly, Mormons have redefined the word, "grace" to mean something other than what orthodox Christians have believed for 2000 years. Mormons bare the burden of having to earn their salvation, and they have no confidence in this life that they are actually saved. They are faithful workers, doing their best to be obedient to the magnitude of Mormon rules and regulations. They are under the heavy burden of this impossible obedience, and as a result, they are repeatedly surveyed as the most depressed and medicated group of religious believers on the planet. They are caught in the impossible daily effort of trying to attain perfection.
And to make matters worse, they have rejected the grace of God and refuse to trust Jesus ALONE for their Salvation. They have rejected the true Gospel in favor of a false Gospel of works, and just as Paul told the Galatians, they have now become accursed.
So this week, we head back out to Utah to share the truth with a people group that clings hopelessly to a lie. We know we will be criticized by some, but be sure of this: we are motivated not by an argument or the desire to prove ourselves right; we are simply motivated by a sense of urgency and a passionate desire to see God glorified and people saved by the work of God on the cross. Please check our blog daily to track our progress!
Today, June 16th, we are driving out from Southern California to Ephraim Utah. More later...
Sunday, June 01, 2008
In a similar manner, I don’t think that we, as Christians, can expect to convince others that our views are correct by forcing (or legislating) them on the world. We are also going to have to WOO the world with the wisdom and beauty of our worldview. That being said, I would like to make a simple case for traditional marriage (an institution that is a reflection of my Christian worldview) and suggest that this may be one instance in which our government should do what I typically hesitate doing: step in and legislate traditional marriage as the only legal form of marriage in our country.
It seems to me that governments have a duty to protect the well being of their citizens. It seems to me that governments have a duty to advance the well being of the society and protect it from damaging influences. Of course the question then is exactly WHAT kinds of behaviors would we consider ‘damaging’. One way to assess the value of a particular behavior is to simply project that behavior across the entire group and think about whether the group is better or worse off as a result of their activity in unison. Let me give you an example. I have a number of friends who believe that drug use should be legal here in America. After all, it’s not illegal to shoot heroin in other countries, why should we legislate against it here in America?
Well, let’s apply our little test to this behavior. Let’s imagine an America in which EVERYONE is a heroin addict. Is that a better or worse America? Is that an America that is more or less functional? Is that an America that is more or less survivable? It’s pretty clear that an America in which EVERYONE is a heroin addict is not a healthy place to be. It’s the duty of the government to protect the well being of the society, even if some members in the society might desire a particular behavior to be legal. A 100% heroin using America is weaker in ONE GENERATION. That’s why we may tolerate the fact that some within our society use drugs, but the government cannot ENCOURAGE everyone to use drugs by legalizing them and promoting their use (even if this promotion is simply the result of their legalization).
Now let’s take a look at the institution of same sex marriage, and let’s apply the same test. Let’s imagine that same sex marriage is legal and that EVERYONE is now involved in same sex marriages exclusively. In other words, let’s imagine that everyone in the culture is homosexual. What does the culture look like? What does America look like one generation down the road? Well, if EVERYONE was a homosexual, there would be NO America just one generation down the road, because it is in the context of heterosexual relationships that children are produced and raised to become the next generation in the first place. Because children are the one guarantee that there will BE a next generation, it is the duty of governments to protect the possibility that these children will be born. If a government is not willing to do this, it simply places its own future at peril because it has not ensured that the next generation will arrive in the first place.
It’s for this reason that traditional heterosexual marriage needs to be protected by government legislation; not because there are inherent moral or religious issues, but simply because same sex behaviors (while they can certainly be tolerated within the context of the larger society) cannot be encouraged or promoted, any more than other behaviors that inhibit the natural growth of the group can be encouraged. And it seems to me that legislation that legalizes same sex marriage as a culturally accepted option does just that, it encourages a behavior that would completely destroy the future of the group if it were allowed to become the norm. I know that is a controversial position to take, so let’s hear your thoughts…