The towers of the Mormon temple were casting a shadow over the downtown shopping center of Salt Lake City. The busy summer streets contained a mix of people—shopping tourists, irritated locals, begging homeless, and faithful Mormons—all passing by the gates to the centrally located temple gardens. After three years of living here, I hadn’t yet visited the Mormon temple.
It’s possible I had been avoiding this place. However, being interested in the history of it, my friend and I decided to take a tour. We were guided by a sweet, elderly Mormon couple. They were very kind and were quick to share about their faith when we asked. During the tour, the man shared about their faithfulness to the church, including all the ways they had served and obeyed for their entire lives (not out of arrogance, but with a demeanor of excitement and joy). Simply put, they were zealous for the mission of the Mormon Jesus. This couple was clearly on fire for God, but not the God of the Bible. And this is how I know: as the husband finished his testimony, he paused, looked at his wife, pulling her close with a side hug, and said with a deep and pensive sigh, “I just hope that, in the end, we have done enough.”
I felt the crushing weight of those words when they left his mouth. How does anyone know if they’ve done enough? I wanted to tell him that there’s no way to have assurance that you’ve done enough, but there is a way to have assurance that Christ is enough. It is possible to be zealous for a God who is not the real God (Romans 10:2–4). From this encounter, I learned that though Mormons believe that salvation comes from believing in Jesus, they do not believe that Jesus is enough.
In order to be saved, Mormons must rely on their own righteousness.
Every city has its difficulties, and Salt Lake City is no different. The greatest need in this city is a spiritual need. On the surface, the city doesn’t seem like a dark place, but the false gospel of Mormonism makes it a very dark place for a Christian to live. Every day the spiritual warfare is real and at times can be very heavy. This is especially true for someone whose main goal and intention of being here is to share the true gospel. A Christian living in this context faces some difficulties, and I would like to highlight a few of these difficulties. However, living in Salt Lake City also brings blessings, and I would like to begin by highlighting one of them.
Testimonies of Grace
One summer God placed a dear friend in my life. Miray had grown up in the Mormon church and attended Brigham Young University for her first year of college. God had already been doing a work in her heart through a series of circumstances, but I met her about the time she really began reading her Bible for what it was—straightforward truth. And she found something she didn’t think she was going to find, namely, contradictions in her faith. Too many of them. She walked through a season of confusion, doubts, and questions. I got to see the transforming work of God’s Word in her life as she responded in faith (instead of fear) by searching for answers in the Bible. This impacted me and those around her as God caused us to lean heavily on His truth in the midst of this spiritual battle.
From studying the Bible, Miray came to know true grace and experience real hope and joy. Her story is not the only one like this, as I can list several that I know of personally. It is necessary, not optional, for Christians living in this context to know Scripture, cherish it in their hearts, and lean on it fully in times of confusion. The Word of God is both living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and I have never seen the reality of this truth so deeply as I have here in Salt Lake City.
It might sound discouraging that there are so few Christians here. However, there is also something strengthening about feeling your dependence on Christ. You do not live in Utah and just “happen to be a Christian.” If you grew up in Utah, and just happen to be anything, it’s a Mormon. The uniqueness of being a Christian highlights the weightiness of following Christ. With fewer passive Christians, you assume that when you meet another Christian you share with them a burden for this city.
Not Just Mormons
It’s not only the Mormons in Salt Lake City who are lost. The other half of the city is also in need of grace and hope, including the life of the wealthy and carefree, the outdoor junkies who live for exhilaration, and the dedicated workers and students who remain preoccupied in various pursuits. On a daily basis we are reaching out to both very religious and very irreligious people.
Not a Quick Fix
I’ve learned that ministering to people in Salt Lake City takes time. The truth of Scripture often has to make its way through a deep religious fog, and spiritual warfare is not uncommon. There is a lot of deep pain, confusion, and hurt in this city. Many have felt the pain of rejection, and others have been hurt by religion. Many are aware of the Mormon influence and therefore approach religion with great caution and standoffishness.
Blind to Contradictions
When ministering to Mormons, I have found it very difficult to help them see a significant disconnect in their view of the Bible. Like Christians, they believe the Bible is true. However, the Book of Mormon, which is also authoritative for them, distorts the gospel they claim to believe. They don’t see this, of course, despite the many contradictions between the two books. The fact that the Book of Mormon sounds a lot like the Bible in some places only adds to the confusion.
As Christians, we can remain faithful in the midst of the challenges we face. We know that we will experience despair and doubt, but we shouldn’t stay in that frame of mind. It’s unbiblical. We can rejoice because of the hope we have in Christ, and, based on what He has done for us, we can go to Him for help as we proclaim His gospel:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Would you join me in praying for Salt Lake City?