January 15, 1998 in Nation/World

Baptists Try To Convert Mormons But Hosts May Turn Tables When Baptists Meet In Salt Lake City

Jim Jones Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 

Texas Baptists are being told that the tables might be turned on them when they go to Salt Lake City in June to try to convert members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons.

“The Mormons may convert you,” said the Rev. Mark Stepherson of Fort Worth, speaking at a workshop at the Texas Baptist Evangelism Conference, which ended Wednesday at the Fort Worth Convention Center. “Don’t lose your salvation.”

Stepherson said Mormons have many door-to-door missionaries who are adept at converting members of other faiths.

Baptists and Mormons, both highly evangelistic denominations, will hold their standoff when the annual Southern Baptist Convention is held in Salt Lake City, headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Stepherson said Mormons are holding special training sessions to prepare for the Southern Baptist invasion.

Baptists are also preparing. Among other things, they are distributing a video that outlines beliefs of the Mormon church and claims that Mormons are not Christians. Baptists make that assertion because Mormons rely on other books in addition to the Bible for their doctrine.

Mormon leaders say they are Christians because they, too, believe in Jesus Christ as their savior although they follow nontraditional teachings that they believe were revealed by an angel to their founder, Joseph Smith. They overlook the differences and say they will welcome Southern Baptists to Salt Lake City.

About 100 Baptists attended two sessions of Stepherson’s workshop on “Three Ways to Witness to Mormons.”

“At first I was opposed to Southern Baptists spending the money in Salt Lake City,” Stepherson said. “Now I look on it as an opportunity. God can bring a revival to Salt Lake City. Many Mormons want to know the true God.”

Criticizing Mormons can be controversial, said one workshop participant, the Rev. Stephen Wright, pastor of Houston Northwest Baptist Church.

“I had a family that became livid when I referred to Mormons as a cult,” Wright said. Many of his church members, he said, are impressed by the moral lifestyle of many Mormons in his neighborhood.

“I still call them a cult,” he said.

Members of his church will be taking part in the “Crossover Salt Lake City” evangelistic campaign on the weekend before the Southern Baptist Convention, he said.

Wright also suggested that people write letters of protest to former President Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist, who publicly criticized fellow Baptists for targeting Mormons for evangelism.

More than 5,000 people attended the three-day state evangelism conference, sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas Evangelism Division.

Speakers Tuesday night included Steve Farrar, president of the Men’s Leadership Ministries in Bryan, and Ravi Zacharias, director of International Ministries of Norcross, Ga.


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