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The Ground is Moving Beneath Our Feet

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In 2010, the percentage of evangelical Christians in Utah stood at just over 2%,[1] which means there were barely 70,000 Christians in the entire state. Since 2010, however, evangelical Christians have seen incredible growth as the Lord has seen fit to grow His church inside Utah’s boundaries. There are thousands of conversion stories from the man-made religion of Mormonism to Christianity, and the Jesus of the New Testament is honored and worshiped in more homes in Utah than ever before. One such story deserves to be told.

Two Unexpected Questions
During the summer of 2014, one of our new churches held a block party in its local community to show the community the love of Christ. Grills were fired up for hamburgers and hotdogs, bounce houses were inflated for children to play, music was playing to fill the community with Christian songs, and the community began streaming into the local park on a hot, clear summer afternoon. As any good high desert resident does during the summer, most people found shade under pop-up tents or beneath the few trees in the park.

A couple from the community was sitting beneath the shade of one of those trees, watching their two children play, but away from most of the action of the block party. It was the wife’s birthday and she had expected a birthday dinner at a local restaurant, but the couple decided instead to take their two children to the block party. A hotdog or hamburger in a local park is not exactly the ideal birthday meal, so the couple stayed away from most of the action.

As I looked around, I noticed a few of the local church members talking to the couple beneath the tree. After a few minutes, one of the church members came over to me, told me the couple had some questions, and asked if I could talk to them about their questions. I walked over to the couple and said, “I hear you guys have some questions.” As soon as I said those words, the wife looked at me with anger and disgust. She said, through her anger, “We have two questions. We want to know about temples and the priesthood. Go!”

Really, Jesus?
I was completely shocked by her demeanor and statement. I asked her to repeat what she said. When she did, I responded, “Well, in the Old Testament, we needed physical temples and physical priests to get us closer to God because of our sin and His holiness. In the New Testament, although our sin and His holiness remain, God sent His Son, Jesus, to fulfill all of those requirements and die in our place. So we now have a spiritual temple, which are our bodies (temples of the Holy Spirit), and we have a Great High Priest in Jesus. We don’t need physical temples or priests any longer to get us closer to God because Jesus is the final prophet, priest, and king. He took our punishment and He is now our mediator.”

The wife looked at me and said, simply but tersely, “Ok, we’re done. What’s next?” I asked her to help me understand her response and she repeated, “Ok, we’re done. What’s next?”

After I pushed for more explanation, she said, “’Ok’ means we accept your answers to our questions. ‘We’re done’ means we were Mormon for 36 years. In fact, we are both multi-generation Mormons and both of us have pioneer heritage. We no longer want to be Mormon, so we’re done. I said ‘what’s next’ because you seem very happy and filled with joy and we want to know how to find that same happiness and joy.”

My immediate thought was, “Really, Jesus? Is this how you’re going to work in Utah?”

Knowing something was happening in their hearts, I became extremely excited and began to share the gospel with them. They professed faith in Christ and, later that same day, they shared the gospel with their two children and both were brought from death to life in Christ! Just a few months later, we had the privilege of baptizing the husband and then he baptized his wife and two children. It was an amazing journey of faith over a few short months from salvation to baptism.

Radical Transformation
Fast forward to the present and the family has been following Jesus for three and a half years. They have led multiple family members to faith in Christ, and they may be the happiest people I have ever met. God gave me the honor of watching death fall from the faces of these sweet people in the summer of 2014 and He now gives me the same honor of watching them grow in Christ. Even though they have not been Christians for very long, the husband has been taking seminary courses and loves nothing more than studying the Old Testament and theology. All four of them love Jesus and love His people. In fact, their son often talks about how much he used to hate Sundays when they were Mormon but now Sunday is his favorite day because he knows Sunday means more than man-made religion. He knows it means worshiping the risen, living Jesus of the New Testament with others who love Jesus as much as he does. Empty religion has become living faith.

This couple was born and raised in the Mountain West. They were multi-generation Mormon. Their family and the Mormon Church were their first loves. Now, the Lord Jesus is their everything. He is the center of their home. And, when asked about life as Christians in Utah, they often say, “It feels like God is moving here like He never has. It feels like the ground is moving beneath our feet.”

Please continue to pray for Christians in Utah. Though the Lord is seeing fit to grow our numbers, we are still a very small fraction of the larger population. Ask the Lord to protect Christians from spiritual warfare, to provide opportunities to share the gospel, and to continue saving the 98% of our state that does not know Christ.

[1] This statistic based on a religious census from the Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA).

Travis Kerns serves with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as the Send City Missionary for Salt Lake City, Utah. He was born and raised in Greenville, SC, but has lived in the Salt Lake City area since 2013. He has a B.A. from North Greenville University and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His Ph.D. studies focuses on world religions, specifically, Mormon philosophy. Prior to serving with NAMB, he was a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and taught in the areas of apologetics, world religions, and philosophy.
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