HATTON – Wil Hoffmann is interested in Mormons. It has been a lifelong fascination for the central Missouri pastor.
Formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Salt Lake City-based church is one of the fastest growing religious groups in the world. The LDS Church is particularly dominant in Utah, where early church pioneers migrated by wagon train in the 1840s, fleeing persecution in Missouri and Illinois.
Hoffman, pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church, Hatton, was always curious about the Mormons. His interest began when a couple of young LDS missionaries engaged him in a spiritual conversation when he was in his early twenties.
Hoffmann grew up in Bellflower, with Lutheran and Presbyterian parents, not attending church very much, except maybe Easter and Christmas. When the LDS missionaries talked to him, it set him on a spiritual search that led to his conversion to Christ.
“I knew some spiritual truths from growing up, but as I listened to these missionaries, I just knew that’s not quite right,” he said. He was influenced by a Christian pastor and received Christ as Savior. Later, in 2003, he was baptized at Mineola Baptist Church and attended services there.
A call to ministry
Marrying his high school sweetheart, Shannon, the couple set off on a life of discipleship which led to a call to the ministry. They moved to St. Louis, and Wil studied at St. Louis Christian College. There he took apologetics and world religions courses and was influenced by the writings of R.C. Sproul. He wrote a term paper on Mormonism.
“I was fascinated by them,” Hoffmann said. “I began to collect study materials about the Mormons as well as Mormon sources (The Book of Mormon and other texts). “I have a shelf of my library I call the heresy section,” he laughed.
He was searching for a church to pastor and responded to a job posting by First Baptist Church, Duchesne, Utah. He sent a resume, while Shannon inquired about a job in the lab of a nearby hospital. She was hired and they moved to Utah even before Hoffmann had been called to the church. The hospital rented them a home, and they settled into the rural Utah culture.
Duchesne was dominated in every way by the Mormons, which was a completely new experience for the young couple. The elementary and high school buildings were adjacent to an LDS seminary, in which the students left school to take religion classes during the day. The Walmart stores had a Mormon section where books, music, and choir robes were sold.
Hoffmann said food storage and survivalism are big parts of Mormonism. Stores stocked huge cans of food for family stockpiles. The church is known for its generous sharing of food with those in need, but the expectation of church attendance is clearly stated.
“I found friendship evangelism to be the most effective way,” Hoffmann said. “Most of the people had been LDS missionaries at one time so they knew how to try to convert people.”
He said most LDS adherents would just drop out of the faith and become atheists if they left the church. Some continued to go to the church on an as-needed basis and were commonly called “Jack Mormons.”
“We won some to the Lord,” said Hoffmann. One young lady attended First Baptist with a young male friend. He had read John 3:3 to her before they entered the church. It read: “Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” She was welcomed at Hoffmann’s church, and he offered her a Bible. She asked him to sign it and he did, including John 3:3, one of his favorite verses. This was a jaw-dropping moment for the young lady. She prayed to receive the Lord, although she did not get baptized.
Many people there just could not shake the firm grip of the Mormon culture on their lives, their jobs, their families.
Mormons place a heavy emphasis on family. And many Baptists are attracted to the LDS because of this wholesome emphasis. But Hoffmann said it is an empty religion, devoid of a proper understanding of God, Jesus, the Scriptures and many other key doctrines.
Hoffmann returned to Missouri to finish his education at Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City. While there he explored many of the LDS and Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Latter-day Saints) holy sites in Independence. There are several sects of Mormonism based there, each with its own visitor’s center.
Polygamy is practiced “under the radar” in Utah. Though the Salt Lake City LDS Church officially renounces it, Hoffmann said it was not uncommon to see polygamous compounds where a man many have several wives and multiple families of children.
Hoffmann is part of the MBC Apologetics Network and is available to come to churches to lead training on the history and practices of Mormonism as well as how to share Christ with them. Especially important is the need to define LDS terminology and compare it with a biblical understanding of theological terms.
Hoffmann can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone him at (816) 550-9462.