by James Schurke
EDITOR’S NOTE: James Schurke, who wrote this article, is a retired layman serving Missouri Baptists in Springfield. He is a member of the Missouri Baptist Apologetics Network.
SPRINGFIELD – The 192nd Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was held April 1-2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference closed with an address by Russell M. Nelson, the 17th president of the LDS Church.
Included in his address, Nelson announced plans for the construction of 15 new temples across the world. Currently, the LDS church has 172 temples, with several more under construction or major renovation. There are an estimated 17 million LDS adherents worldwide, worshipping in more than 31,000 congregations.
The one new temple in Nelson’s announcement that caught my eye is the projected temple in the Springfield, Mo. area. The announcement did not include a specific location or construction start date, but Missouri Baptists should take note of this milestone.
There are an estimated 8,000 practicing Latter-Day Saints, also called Mormons, in the Springfield area. A temple in the Springfield area would mean that local Latter Day Saints would not need to travel to St. Louis or Kansas City, where temples already exist.
So, one may ask, what is the purpose of an LDS temple? In Nelson’s address, he said, “Jesus Christ is the reason we build temples. Each is his Holy House. Making covenants and receiving essential ordinances in the temple as well as seeking to draw closer to Him there will bless your life in ways no other worship can. For this reason we are doing all within our power to make the blessings of the temple more accessible to our members across the world.”
Do all LDS adherents go to LDS temples? And what are these “covenants” and “essential ordinances” they receive there?
Only Latter-Day Saints in good standing with the church may enter an LDS temple. “Good standing” means members’ tithes are up to date, and their attendance and service in their local congregations are acceptable.
If Latter-Day Saints measures up to these standards, they receive a “Temple Recommend” from their bishop, which permits them to enter a temple. This is the first and necessary step toward receiving the “covenants” and “essential ordinances” mentioned in Nelson’s address.
Among those “covenants” and “essential ordinances” are “baptism for the dead” and “celestial marriage,” or marriage for all time and eternity. A man and his wife, married in the temple and living good Mormon lives, will, upon their resurrection, go to a planet over which they will rule as a god and his goddess wife. This is called “The Mormon Plan of Eternal Progression.”
What should those living in Springfield, like me, expect, once the temple is completed? We should see a considerable increase in LDS missionary activity. And that means we’ll see a greater number of Mormon missionaries riding their bicycles through our neighborhoods and knocking on our doors.
Rather than refuse to answer the door, or slam the door in the faces of these precious people who need to know the true Jesus, we should be prepared.
First and foremost, we should know what we believe and why we believe it. That means you and I should understand the core doctrines of the Christian faith. A good resource is Understanding The Baptist Faith & Message, available from the Missouri Baptist Convention, as well as from Amazon and other retailers. This simple resource is designed for personal or group study. Contact the MBC at 800.736.6227, ext. 303, to order bulk quantities at discounted prices.
Second, we should know at least a little about LDS beliefs and practices. A good resource is Mormonism 101 by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, available through Amazon and other retailers.
Better yet, invite a member of the Missouri Baptist Apologetics Network to speak at your church. The network, which consists of Missouri Baptist pastors and laypersons, features several speakers who are experienced in addressing Mormonism.
These include Wil Hoffmann, Charles Smith, me, and others. Find our contact information online at mobaptist.org/apologetics/mban/.
Someday soon, Mormon missionaries may be knocking on your door. We should always be ready to offer a reason for the hope that’s within us – sharing Christ with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15-16).