We pulled into the hotel parking lot in Salt Lake city and stepped out of our air conditioned car and into the 100 degree Utah evening. After getting settled into our room (the only way we were able to afford this nice hotel is because Sarah worked at a Marriott) we decided to go see the sites. When in Salt Lake City the "sites" are pretty much limited to Mormon monuments.
We wandered our way up the deserted Sunday streets and found our way to the Beehive House. This was the official residence of the (false) prophet Brigham Young. Young earned the nickname "the Mormon Moses" for leading the followers of Joseph Smith, Mormonism's founder, from Illinois to what is now Utah. He was known as a man of strong leadership, controversy, and many wives. The house adjacent to the Beehive House is the Lion house, built to accommodate Young's wives, (27) and children (56).
Moving on, we made our way past the ominous Mormon Global Headquarters which strangely reminded me of the euthanasia center from Soylent Green.
Wandering on, we found our way to the main event, the temple.
I guess it's a pretty building, if you can look past all the occult symbols that adorn it. It's really not that big and lacks the disneylandish feel of the San Diego temple that I'm more familiar with. After walking around the temple for a bit we finally came to the visitor's center. As you enter you are greeted by a small army of well dressed latter day lackeys. Everything in here looks ultra-Christian. The walls are lined with paintings of Jesus' life as recorded in the Gospels (the real ones). The center-piece of the room is a large largely inaccurate scale model of ancient Jerusalem. On the surface, a Christian (and by Christian I mean someone who believes that Christ is God and that the Bible is the one and only true word of God - you really gotta define your terms when dealing with Mormons) would feel totally comfortable in this room - and that's scary. After perusing the visitor's center for a while we went outside and were met by two Mormon young ladies. They asked us if we would like a tour of the complex. So for the next hour and a half we toured around.
We saw the tabernacle, famous for it's choir and accoustics.
We saw more of the visitor's center and listened to the Jesus say nice things while staring at the 30 foot Caucasian Jesus statue. We also walked around the temple again and heard a spiel about it from our tour guides.
Probably most interesting was the conference center. This isn't normally on the tour. The auditorium holds a frightening 21,000 seats. Two Jumbo Jets can fit into this thing side by side. In more sobering terms, imagine a morgue with 21,000 bodies all representing a soul separated from God from eternity for believing lies about Christ.
The lobby of the conference center was similar to that of the visitors center with one major difference: instead of paintings of the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, these paintings told the story of Jesus' suppossed adventures in the Americas. These pictures and the stories they told seemed like something that could only happen if Jack Chick, George Lucas, and William Randolph Hearst joined forces to make a really bad children's book while on acid. I don't have the time to go into all the details (and I don't know all the details) of the book of Mormon but here's a crude summary: Jesus really didn't go back to heaven He went to Mexico and taught some more to the Indians who were really the lost tribe of Jews. This teaching though was lost cause the good Indians were killed off. Fortunately the knowledge was hidden on some tablets by a guy named Moroni. After thousands of years the knowledge was re-discovered by Joseph Smith who founded the Mormon church in the late 1800s. But he lost the tablets or something and apparently they weren't enough because he kept having new revelations, sometimes contradicting his old ones.
Anyways, the point I wanted to make about the conference center was that it was here, not the visitor's center that you really began to see what the Mormons believed. Everywhere else on the tour was either benign facts or blatantly Christian/Bible-friendly. The conference center was not supposed to be on the tour, perhaps for that very reason.
At the end of the tour we sat down and the two young ladies asked if we had any questions. We did. For the next 45 min or so we talked to these ladies about their faith and the Bible. They were very cordial, very lucid, and very authentic. I did my best not to just barrage them with the classical arguments against in a way that came across like I was just arrogantly listing off reasons why they are stupid. I avoid this approach one because it's not my style and two because I don't think it would have been very effective. In fact, when I mentioned that I was trying not to be arrogant they thanked me that I wasn't like the combative evangelicals they often meet. Instead I just merely asked questions that I was truly interested in and communicated them in a loving but clear way. One such question that seemed to get them thinking was, "If we are to obey God, specifically the 10 commandments (which they were very sure about), and if we are to worship Jesus (which they emphasized many times), but Jesus is not God, then aren't you guilty of idolatry?" They really didn't have a solid answer for that one. I wasn't glad that I stumped them, but I was glad that perhaps a crack had been made in their belief system, a crack through which the truth of the Gospel (and maybe some good old fashioned common sense) would seep in through and wash away their false beliefs.
There's something about Mormons that make you hungry so after our discussion we wandered around in the still deserted city to find somewhere to eat. The only place we could find was a pub. Fortunately they had delicious sausage sandwhiches. Unfortunately it was amatuer stand up comic night. The first comic spoke for about 5 minutes about his adventures using a urinal. I like potty humor as much as the next guy (maybe more) but this was just dumb. The next guy was even worse. He didn't know what to talk about so he asked the audience for ideas. Some inebriated invertabrate yelled, "sex!". Another yelled, "Mormons". Next was, "sexy Mormons!" That's when we left.
Salt Lake City had a tramatic effect on me. It put a face on a false religion. It made me realize that the majority of Mormons aren't coniving, snake-oil salesmen or a band of bike-helmeted agents whose sole purpose is to wake me up from my nap and give their cheesy literature to. They are lost, decieved, blind men, women, and children. Men, women, and children who think they know the real God and want to worship that God with all of their heart. Men, women, and children who need to know the Truth, the Way, the Life. I have since had many dreams about our tour guides, one from Alabama, the other from South Africa. I have dreamed that they had the eyes of their heart healed and they saw Jesus as the God He is and has revealed Himself to be. I may never know if this dream will come true but I pray that I will never again see Mormons as a nuisance to be avoided but an opportunity to show the grace and truth of the True Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega.