The bus doors open, and out stream dozens of matching-tee-shirt-wearing LDS pageant-goers. They quickly traverse the short distance to become part of a bulky and growing line at temple lawn gates. A little wait, and they'll be able to pick the best seats, and save them for later when the Mormon Miracle Pageant begins. But for now, they happily chat and enjoy the ambiance on the road directly east of the temple grounds.
Next to this line of temple visitors another, much smaller, group is beginning to form. These folks are holding Bibles, and they are here to try to engage loitering Mormons in conversations about the LDS religion and the Bible. They hope to be able to find people who will hear the gospel of Christ, and accept Him as the Lord and Savior of their lives.
The public road on which they are all standing (which hereafter I'll call "100-East" for brevity) has served for the last 20 years as a place where evangelicals and Mormons can meet, in the relaxed, summer-evening atmosphere, and exercise their constitutional rights to free speech, and freedom of religion.
A few years ago, county government proposed that a convention center and fairgrounds be built near the Manti temple. A traffic-impact study was done, and based on that study, UDOT (the Utah Dept. of Transportation) concluded that traffic moving north off of 100-East would present a problem for that kind of new development. The city closed 100-East to vehicles (but not pedestrians) at the north end. Oddly, it seems that there has been a reversal on those plans, and neither a convention center nor fairgrounds is being built, but still the road remains closed. (Also, the question is begged, where was the project money coming from)?
Local ranchers have been using 100-East for as long as Manti has been a city; it is an important part of their most natural and least problematic cattle-moving route. The north-end closure structure does not hinder the ranchers currently, but they ARE discouraged to know that the church will not allow any further such use of 100-East once they own it. The LDS church has already bought up the property on the other side of the street from the temple, and after ripping up the pavement at 100-South, will be able to further expand and beautify the temple grounds.
The ACLU has gotten involved because of the constitutional issues. This legal body may not succeed, however, because although it hopes to defend a small rural town from a corporate religious giant, the Manti City Government is itself composed of members of the LDS church. Also, because the Church financed Salt Lake City's legal battle with the ACLU, it is reasonable to expect the Manti community to receive similar financial incentive/aid.
If the LDS church purchases 100-East, Christians can expect to be forced to leave (or worse) for attempting to engage Mormons in any fashion (also see here).
There may be things that can be done to prevent the Mormon Church from buying the Manti road; there may be things that can be done to ensure that they will not kick Christian evangelicals off of it. This blogger doesn't deem it likely - but perhaps getting the word out to more people will do some good. In the meantime, we will continue to pray knowing that God is in control.