Ten years have passed since the Sugar City Curve.* A lot has happened in the interim. Most important, I have been called into pastoral ministry, out of which I continue to try to reach the Mormon people.
The heartland of what I call Mormondom is Utah, eastern Idaho and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona. Within these boundaries reside about three million Mormons. The area is a spiritual desert, the least Christianized section of America.
It is also, if we can believe the social statistics, one of the most hurting places in America. Yet in spite of the evident problems in Mormondom, most people have a hard time understanding why Mormonism is considered by nearly every Bible-based denomination to be a cult. It seems difficult to censure an organization that preaches qualities like family closeness, morality and patriotism. How can a religion that strives to develop the Christian characteristics of patience, decency and self-sacrifice be bad?
The answer is that only a relationship with Jesus Christ produces Christian character, and religion is a poor substitute for relationship. No social system, regardless of how orderly a citizenry it produces, is ultimately good that does not restore people to fellowship with, and bold access to, God. Our Mormon friends have been deceived into accepting a system of religion in place of redemption.
The final goal of Christianity, on the other hand, is not to produce people of Christian character, but to bring people into actual and vital personal relationship with God Himself. This is why Mormonism does not bear real Christian fruit. Morality and character development are no substitutes for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Obedience is no substitute for integrity. Plastic religious wings are no substitute for the Rock of Ages.
Bible Christianity, which has weathered cultish assaults for two thousand years, is charged to contend for an irreducible minimum confession of faith "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). That faith, simply stated, is this:
God Himself took on real flesh and entered human history, died as the full price for mans sin, declared His full divinity in His resurrection, and now redeems all who come to Him in simple faith and accept His finished work.
Mormonism, on the other hand, sets itself outside the Christian Church by declaration as well as doctrine. It reduces the divinity of Christ to mere exalted humanity; it robs the atoning blood of Christ of its power to save fully from the penalty of sin; and it replaces grace with a treadmill of self-perfection.
Christians have no right, because of some insipid, fuzzy substitute for tough love, to compromise the elements of the gospel. We deplore the doctrinal positions of Mormonism and must stand firmly against error.
At the same time, it is imperative that we view Mormons themselves with love. How vital it is to separate evil from those who are in the clutches of evil! Our job is to love the people and hate the error. This may be best summed up by the adage used as the watchword of our Mormonism newsletter, Through the Maze: "The truth without love is too hard; love without the truth is too soft."
Since Margaretta and I left the Mormon Church, God has blessed us. The church we pastor Shiloh Foursquare Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho is vigorous, and we are surrounded by loving friends and associates. In addition, I am Eastern Idaho Divisional Superintendent for my denomination.
My friend Fred Johnson is in seminary. Lee and I, sadly, do not see each other at all. Bill from Ricks College wrote me a long letter dissolving our former friendly relationship. Dewey Wilmont is pastoring.
God has given Margaretta and me a special love and understanding for Mormons. We have led many into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are involved in church planting in Idaho and Utah, and feel that a necessary blend of truth and love toughness coupled with tenderness is the formula needed to reach our Mormon friends.
Mormondom really needs to be evangelized. Many towns have no evangelical churches at all. Ultimately, the answer for Mormonism is the local Spirit-filled congregation. We need hundreds of evangelical churches in Mormondom.
The intense need notwithstanding, I am full of faith. I see a breakup of the social, economic and religious monopoly that Mormonism has had on Utah and Idaho for the past 140 years. We are seeing Mormons convert at a rate we could have not imagined even five years ago. Churches here, long empty and poor, are being filled to expansion.
The Spirit-led Church is marching down the Wasatch Front. I believe we are about to witness one of the greatest sovereign works of God in our time.
*As I update this in 2002, 28 years have elapsed.