Estimated reading time: 5 minutes:-)
Last week I went to Utah to witness to the Latter-day Saint population with my youth group.
I don’t have enough time to tell you about everything, how I saw God moving and how I saw the devil’s grasp on that city. But I wanted to document some highlights of our time in Utah. And I wanted to remind you of some things that are easy to forget, living in a state where our neighbors are likely Christians.
Me and my brother flew into Utah a few days after our youth group arrived there because of family stuff. I remember landing in Salt Lake City and feeling a heaviness press down on my shoulders the second we hit the ground. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but the feeling there is undeniable. If you know Jesus, you’ll feel it.
That day, we visited Temple Square. The architecture in the Tabernacle and church building is jaw-dropping. I remember staring at the organ in the back of the Tabernacle and not being able to take my eyes off of it; it was like a massive, musical octopus, bigger than any I’d ever seen.
But despite all the beauty and elegance, I still felt it. The moment I stepped into the Tabernacle, my head started throbbing. The only tour guides on Temple Square are Sisters who are on their mission trip for two years spreading the Mormon gospel. They are some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet, but their kindness is eerily mechanic.
If you know anything about the Mormon religion, you know that Mormons believe themselves to be Christians. They consider the Bible as one of their scriptures, but as the least important scripture out of the four they adhere to. For instance, if the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, or the Doctrines and Covenants disagree with the Bible, they’ll consider the Bible wrong (mistranslated).
Mormons also believe that Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t completely save them. The Bible describes Jesus’s sacrifice as a payment for our sins—nothing more is needed on our part to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith. But Mormons believe Jesus’s sacrifice was a ‘down-payment.’ To them, Jesus paid the price for our sins, but over time they believe they must pay that price back in order to enter the highest level of heaven. Basically, the Mormon religion is works-based. The Christian religion is grace-based.
This is why Mormons are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. They have a lot of children to follow God’s commandments, they sweep all their sin under the rug so only the perfect parts of them glow, and they are kind to everyone they meet so they have a greater chance of reaching the highest level of heaven. Their obedience and kindness is admirable, but it’s all in the name of selfish ambition. And you can tell their heart posture is struggling when you meet them.
This is why I say the Mormon population is a group of people that needs to hear the gospel more than many others. They don’t know the true gospel. They don’t live in grace. Can you imagine the burden? Can you imagine the pressure? These people need Jesus—the real Jesus. The Jesus who forgives, who pays for our sins, who teaches that good works aren’t what saves us, but what blooms out of our salvation. The Jesus who loves.
Utah has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the entire United States, and this is why. They believe they have to work to be saved. They don’t understand that they’re already good enough under His grace.
It’s heartbreaking. There were days we would walk through Salt Lake City and I would just marvel. Their streets are cleanly swept. Their trees are manicured. Their buildings shine. There are hardly any homeless. And these all sound like wonderful things until you realize the heart behind it all. These people are chasing a perfection they’ll never reach. It’s so sad.
My group helped with a VBS during the week, at one of the only Christian churches in the city. Salt Lake City has a less than 2% Christian population, with 96% being Mormon, so the Mormon community in Salt Lake City is considered an unreached people group. There simply aren’t enough Christians to share the true gospel. In fact, there are more Christians in Iraq or Afghanistan than there are in Salt Lake City. As a result, many of the kids that came to VBS didn’t come from Christian homes.
The whole week, I felt Satan’s hold on Utah and Salt Lake City, no matter where I went. The Deseret bookstore, Temple Square, the conference center, even the In-And-Out downtown—all these places were paired with a heaviness, a grief that gripped my heart. But the only place this feeling went away was in that church, helping those kids at VBS. The Spirit was alive there. Looking at kids lifting their hands, telling you Jesus loves them, dancing and hugging you and singing along—you can feel the Spirit dancing alongside them.
There is a time in the Bible when Jesus talks about how the pharisees are like whitewashed tombs. On the outside they’re perfectly white, shining in the sunlight, clean. But on the inside they are just tombs, full of bones and death. They don’t have true life in them, because they believe they have to work to be saved. This is what Mormonism is.
Being in SLC for a week made me so thankful for Jesus and the true gospel. And the fact that I know Him! The fact that we can live under grace is a gift, and I never want to take it for granted again. I think about all those kids, being raised in Mormon families and told they have to be good enough to reach the highest heaven, being pressured to be perfect all the time—it breaks my heart.
One day, we toured BYU and ate lunch in the cafeteria. At that time, a lot of Mormon youth camps were touring as well, so at lunch the outside areas were filled with Mormon teens. Me and a few of my good friends went up to a group and asked them some questions about their religion. I asked them, “What do you think happened when Jesus died on the cross? What does the cross mean to you?” Not a single one of them could answer. So we shared with them what the cross meant to us, and it was like they’d never heard the true gospel before.
Pray for Salt Lake City. Pray for your Mormon (or as they prefer to be called, Latter-day Saint) friends. You always hear harrowing stories of the poverty and godlessness in faraway countries, but to realize such a godless place is just down the road is eye-opening.
Praise God today. Praise God you get to know Him, not just know of Him. Praise Jesus that you not only know and believe in the true gospel, but that Jesus made the true gospel possible. You are blessed to call the God of the universe your friend, your Father, and the lover of your soul.
Treasure Him, and from that deep love, share Him. The world needs Jesus.