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Utah outreach effort upsets Mormons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Evangelicals in Utah intended the distribution of more than 350,000 DVDs disputing the claims of Mormonism as a legitimate act of concern for their neighbors who don’t know Jesus as Savior, but the outreach effort has been taken by Mormons as an act of disrespect for their religion.

Hundreds of volunteers across the state hung the DVDs on doorknobs March 25 in white plastic bags that said “Good News for LDS,” and others were handed out after a Utah Jazz basketball game that night. The DVDs, which use historical evidence to make the case that Mormonism is a non-Christian cult, were written and produced by LaBarge Media in New York for Tri-Grace Ministries in Utah.

Tri-Grace, a Christian organization founded by a former Mormon, invited Southern Baptist churches to help distribute the DVDs, and many Southern Baptist volunteers agreed to help, Tim Clark, executive director of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press.

“Officially, this was not a Utah-Idaho project. It wasn’t part of our strategy,” Clark said, adding that the convention’s Evangelism Response Center has been taking calls from people who watched the DVD and want to ask questions or make a profession of faith in Jesus.

As of the morning of March 29, Clark said the ERC had received more than 500 calls resulting in six professions of faith.

Clark helped put some of the DVDs into plastic bags for distribution on Sunday, but he told BP he was volunteering his time as an individual, not as executive director of the state convention.

“I believe it’s important because we live in one of the most lost places in America even though it’s the most churched state in the union,” Clark said. “The Mormons so highly revere the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith that it’s just an opportunity for us to get them to perhaps call into question their belief system.”

Though the DVD made the case for Christ as the only way to God using documented history, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said the production contained many inaccuracies and was not balanced.

“No good will come from debating doctrine with those whose intention is to disprove and degrade the scriptures we have,” Bishop Barlow of the Santaquin Second Ward, said in an official response March 25. “The sole purpose of this DVD is to distort what our leaders stand for and what they testify of. I threw my copy in the trash, where I feel it belongs.”

Barlow reiterated to his church members that “Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God who saw and spoke with God the Father and His Son. The Book of Mormon is truly a testament of Christ and gives an account of what happened on the American Continent.”

According to the website goodnewsforlds.com, the producers of the DVD “are well aware that members of the LDS Church are sincere about their beliefs, and it is not our desire to belittle those beliefs.”

“In our experience we have found that many people have a very limited understanding of what Mormon leaders have actually taught,” the website says. “Because this is true even within the LDS Church, some Mormons might feel that much of what this DVD contains is fabricated. For this reason great pains have been made to document the statements it contains. Several of them are taken directly from LDS publications and speeches given by those who are recognized as authorities in the LDS Church.”

Clark said Tri-Grace has thousands of DVDs on hold for distribution by U.S. mail while waiting on donations for postage and volunteers to prepare for mailing.

“The Bible says to speak the truth in love,” Clark said. “We worked hard to not offend people. We haven’t made ungrounded attacks or accusations that weren’t based on the historical truth.”

Mormons were not the sole focus of the outreach effort, Clark said, because DVDs were hung on every door whether the residents were LDS members or not.

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  • Erin Roach