Salt Lake City
Took a walk downtown tonight. The air was cold and clear—so clear there were glimmers of the snow-crusted Wasatch in the distance. Temple Square was ablaze in Christmas lights, and big banners declared “A Savior Is Born!” A caroling troupe of Mormon missionaries from Brazil were singing Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The Temple itself—this mecca of Mormonism—glowed in soft white light, but to me it resembles a great sarcophagus. Behind the Temple is the Tabernacle, and the soothing sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir spilled out and filled the crowded square with music. The promise of warmth and a pew where I could sit and write has drawn me inside the Tabernacle.
Nowhere is the chameleon-like character of Mormonism on display more than at Christmastime. After a richly-orchestrated, pitch-perfect “O Holy Night,” one of the Mormon “apostles” is now preaching. He started out by awarding Luke a brief honorable mention for providing us an account of the Christmas story, but after dispensing with this lip service, he went on to “another record” in The Book of Mormon. It was some of Joseph Smith’s make-believe about Samuel the Lamanite and the Nephites in America at the time of Jesus’ birth, etc., etc. The blind leading the blind, and the ditch here that they’ve fallen into is lined with Christmas lights, yet it is horribly dark.
The Jesus that the Mormons here sing of and speak of isn’t the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is in the Bible. The Mormon Jesus is in The Book of Mormon. This Jesus was fabricated in the 19th century and is a son of God. He’s the brother of Lucifer, and their father and mother came from another planet and started the process—a kind of cosmic pyramid scheme—whereby faithful Mormons can become gods themselves. And even have their own planet! I’m not making this stuff up, but Joseph Smith sure did.
Sitting here, seeing and hearing all this, has pulled back the curtain of memory for me to a time many years ago when I clearly and urgently shared the Gospel with my Mormon aunt who was dying of cancer. It seemed as if I were describing the radiant wonder of a sunrise to a person born blind. Later, when I attended her funeral, which was presided over by her Mormon elders, it was miserably hopeless and the atmosphere as dismal as some of the Hindu temples I’ve been in. Standing there beside her casket with her dark priests mumbling their nonsense was the first time the reality of hell truly struck me. The death and blindness and darkness and lostness of the place stood in such stark contrast to the liberating, life-giving power of the cross-centered Gospel.
This morning that Gospel—the Gospel of grace, the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation—was preached in downtown Salt Lake City. We took joy in the worship of Jesus when we sang:
All the Redeemed washed by His blood,
Come, and rejoice in His great love!
O Praise Him! Alleluia!
Christ has defeated every sin.
Cast all your burdens now on Him!
O praise Him! O praise Him! Alleluia!
There are only about 2% evangelical Christians in a population of a million in the Salt Lake Valley, but the Gospel works here, too. Men and women are shaking off the chains of Mormonism by the power and grace of God. I met a sister this morning who has experienced just such a deliverance. She shared with me her resignation letter from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The letter had such a Martin Lutheresque “here I stand” clarity about it! My newborn sister wrote to the Mormon bishop:
I have given this matter considerable thought and prayer. I understand what you consider the “seriousness” and the “consequences” of my actions. I am aware that the church handbook says that my resignation “cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member and revokes temple blessings.” I also understand that I will be “readmitted to the church by baptism only after a thorough interview.”
I have come to this decision after careful study of the Bible, especially in the New Testament. I am convinced that the Bible is complete and that there was no apostasy because Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and His words are completely trust worthy when He said that He would keep and preserve it. He said that “not even the gates of hell shall prevail against His church.” (Matthew 16:18) I also believe that no man is good enough to have seen God, not even Joseph Smith (John 1:18). Since Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5), I can no longer look to self-appointed “Mediators” or “High Priests” in the LDS church. “Jesus Christ is the only Way the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father through anyone but Jesus Christ” (John 14:6). He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev. 1:8). The teachings of Mormonism are not the teachings of Christ, and I wish for you to read the New Testament in the Bible and find for yourselves the true teachings of the Gospel.
I believe in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation and that nothing I do can save me. This does not mean that I am not ready to work for God and do anything in my power to promote the Gospel, but it means that those works are not what save me only Jesus Christ has saved me from sin and death.
May there be many more such liberation letters. May the mailboxes of the Mormons’ churches, temples, and tabernacles be stuffed with them because of “All the redeemed washed by His blood” who are now rejoicing in His great love! God, do this for your glory!
Be sure to look at Tim Keesee’s book Dispatches from the Front along with his films of the same name.
This appeared on Tim Challies INFORMING THE REFORMING on December 17, 2015.