I’m in Salt Lake City speaking at the challenge ’08 youth conference. There’s over 5000 kids at this thing, and it’s a pretty awesome event. I am preaching “in the round”, which means that I am on a square stage in the middle with about 1500 kids sitting on each side. Kind of cool. But weird. Always feel like somebody’s staring at my hiney.
This morning I spoke on what a disciple really looks like – contrasting those people who have a veneer of Christianity gilded on top of a heart that lives for itself. I tried to show them how radically
different people were when they encountered the real Gospel – we become
people of radical generosity and radical joy in the midst of hardship. It
seemed to go well. The students seemed very connected and I sensed an unusual
freedom and authority while I was preaching.
Tomorrow morning I’m going to talk about really
encountering Jesus. I’m going to try and show many
“Christian” students have an inoculated faith – just enough of
Christianity to make them immune to the real thing. I’ll be preaching
from John 4. I would really appreciate your prayers. Also, pray for our own
students who are down at Crossroads summer camp this week. You can keep tabs on
I spent afternoon seeing Salt Lake City. I spent most of
it in the Mormon Temple complex, so now I’m pretty depressed – so
many bright people, energetic, young, and passionate, in service to
“another” Gospel. The place is swarming with “guides”
which are really young missionaries who use the Temple complex to seek
converts. What was weird is that all the “guides” were good looking,
20-something single girls from all over the world. It was like being at a
babe-convention or a Miss America pageant. None of them compared to my wife, of
I “behaved,” for the most part, at the temple. I
only got in 2 discussions which could be called “vigorous.” When asked
if I wanted a Mormon missionary to come and visit my house to answer my questions, I told them yes and that my name was Bruce Ashford. Bruce, you might
be on the lookout for a visit or call sometime in the near future.
It really did break my heart though. And, I did get the chance to
share the Gospel a few times. One of their talking points is to say, “I
prayed to God to know the truth and God showed to me through peace in my heart
that it was Mormonism.” I told them I had prayed the same type of prayer and
that God showed me it was not. I told them that since 2 people could pray and
come up with different answers, we needed to look somewhere else besides a
“feeling” for assurance. That somewhere else is, of course, the New
Testament, where Paul said, “If I, or an angel from heaven (like Moroni)
preach any other Gospel to you than that which I have already preached (like
the whole book of Galatians), let him be accursed. Interesting, both Mormonism
and Islam claim to be started in response to an “angelic”
revelation (Islam – Gabriel/Mormonism – Moroni). The reason Mormonism
and Islam are wrong is that they both preach a fundamentally different Gospel.
They teach, in different ways, that “if we obey properly, then we will be
accepted. The Christian Gospel – Paul’s and Jesus’
Gospel – is that “I am accepted because of what God did for me in
Christ, therefore I obey.”
One interesting story I learned was that when Brigham Young (the
2nd leader of Mormonism who founded Salt Lake City) came over the
Rockies and saw this plain, he thought the Salt Lake was a ‘heaven
on earth,’ a ‘land of bounty and blessing’ (his words). He
claimed God had spoken to him and told him this was the place. Later they found
out the lake was all salt. What promised so much turned out to be dead. I couldn’t
help but think of this as such a stunning parable of their faith.
I also learned that Mormons send out over 20,000 missionaries a year or 2 year stints. 20,000. Even with a defective message, it has to spread, just by the sheer numbers. As I’ve said before, I am committed to the ‘Mormonization’ of our college students: I want them all to spend 2 years working overseas.
I do wish you’d pray for me.
And, did you know Salt Lake City is, statistically, the
least reached city in the country?