I’m having a hard time keeping up with my journaling. Since I am in the park and Becky is not, she is able to get more done journaling-wise. She is all caught up so I will post her thoughts and then will do mine once I can get to them. I will also post pictures after I get them taken off of my camera.
From Becky’s 2008 Manti Journal.
Friday, June 13
We had another regular morning with being at the church from 9:30-noon. Our speakers were Junelle Jacobson (the lady I’m staying with) and Mitz Nelson. They are both ex-LDS from the community and they shared some gut-wrenching stuff about their journey out of Mormonism and what it’s like now still living in this community year-round. There was not a dry-eye in the place. They could have talked to us all day and we were just spell-bound. Afterwards, we decided to do something out of the ordinary and go to a great restaurant called “Tin Plate Pasta” for lunch. God brought us a neat witnessing opportunity there that I’m sure Keith will tell you about in his journaling. I was praising God because after we had ordered and were standing there talking to these Mormons, God gave me the idea to sneak up behind them and pay for their lunch. Keith didn’t even realize I had done that until the next day when I told him, so that was really fun!
We spent some down-time at the park just resting up for the evening and journaling and studying.
On the streets………………
Tonight there was sooooo much going on that I spent too much time on my feet. I hardly sat down, but I couldn’t help it. Not too long after the singing/prayer time, I got up from my chair and started to wander towards two security guys (Steve and John) whom I had started to get to know the night before just on a casual basis. I thought I wanted to go talk to them, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Polynesian looking lady, so I decided to go see if she was from Hawaii and get into a conversation with her. She was from Tonga, but her white husband came up right away too and he had on a T-shirt that said, “North Shore Hawaii.” She was not real outgoing, but her husband was, so we started talking. His name was Bill and we got into stuff right away. He started by asking a lot of the typical questions about what group I was with, how many churches were out here, where we were all from, etc. I had our team T-shirt on, so I used that to start heading in the direction of the impossible gospel. He made it obvious that he was real uncomfortable with the thought of me getting out my quad, so I just talked him through some of the things dealing with forgiveness of sins from memory and just quoted the verses. He was doing a lot of the typical LDS-isms of hearing the verse and then telling me it didn’t mean what it said and then proceeding to give me his own opinion. I respected his wishes about not pulling anything out of my backpack until he started telling me that as long as we were trying, God would be OK with that. I could stand it no longer, and then I told I just had to show him something in the Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball. The part I showed him explains very clearly that trying is not sufficient. After reading it over, he told me that he had not read the entire book, but that a friend of his had and that he said it made him feel very depressed. I told him he needs to read the book to understand why that was true, because it was very depressing. He tried by telling me that the book was written for those who were complacent and didn’t really care about improving their life. I found that interesting since he had already admitted he had not read it all. He understood. Then he tried to tell me that near the end of the book it got better and said that it would all work out in the end, so I turned to the end of the book and showed him where it said that “the desire or urge to sin had to be completely cleared out of one’s life.” This stuck him too, but he just kept making up stuff. Several times in the conversation he mentioned that he understood why I could be getting the impressions that I was based on what I was reading, but that he was sure that there were quotes from recent general conferences that would say what he was telling me. I told him I’d like to see some of those. His kids were starting to come up to him wanting him to play with them, so I did not want to be obnoxious, especially since we had already been talking for a little over an hour, so I asked him if I could give him my email and maybe he could find me some quotes and email them to me. He seemed uncomfortable with that and started looking around. (I think it was because of his wife) I really did not want to let everything just go, so as we were wrapping things up, I was very relieved when he finally said, “Well, if you could just remember my email, it’s very easy, then you could email me and I’ll tell you where to find them.” He told me his email and said I could write it down later and we parted on friendly terms. I know seeds were planted, so we’ll see if he responds to me.
I went over to my chair to immediately write it down and then pray for him. A Christian man named Jerry came up to me right away and asked if he could talk to me about something, but I asked him to wait to write down this email before I forgot it. Then I told him I needed to pray for someone and invited him to join me and said we could talk afterwards. He agreed. After we prayed, he told me there was a lady sitting not far from where we were who he wondered if I could try to get into a conversation with. Her name was Debbie Smith and he had just finished talking to her. He had gone up to her right after the music time was over, because he had noticed how much she seemed to be enjoying it. She had expressed to him a lot of doubts about the LDS church already, but while they were talking it was becoming harder and harder because her 4-year old daughter was being very wiggly and disruptive. He said he had told her that a few months ago her daughter had been molested by her grandfather, and since then had been having a lot of trouble. Debbie also said that her LDS bishop had recently told her that she was white trash and not wanted at church. She seemed very open to Christianity, so he wondered if I could go and try and connect with her. I got out one of my music CDs from my church and told him I would just go and give her one and start that way. We prayed for her and her family’s salvation and just a few minutes after our heads came up, she walked up to Jerry and pointed at my CD laying on the grass and asked Jerry what kind of music that was. He introduced us and I told her I was just about to go over to her blanket and give it to her. I told her it had music on it that was very similar to what they been playing and singing earlier in the evening. She seemed very surprised and excited and then her grandmother asked Debbie if she could burn a copy. I told her there was no need, and pulled another one out of my bag and gave it to her. From there we started talking a little bit until the daughter became unruly again, but she said she was going to get some food but that she’d come back. Jerry left and then sure enough, about 15 minutes later, she came back and sat with me. We got to know each other a little bit and she also told me about some of her recent troubles. I told her that I was sorry that all of that had happened to her, but that the rejection that she was experiencing from the LDS church was NOT what the God of the Bible would do to her. She looked me in the eye and said very sincerely that she knew that. She went back to her blanket after a little while and I told her that I wanted to look for someone else in the crowd that I wanted to introduce her to, Pastor Rodney. She said OK, so I went to look for Rodney. (Debbie lives in Mt. Pleasant, which is only 17 miles from ECB, so I thought it would be good to let her meet him and see if she would ever be interested in coming to check out the church.) As I was looking I got a little distracted by something. Here’s the story…..
A few days before coming out here, we got a call from Chip, the man who founded the church out here and who now heads up the pageant outreach. He told us that his daughter Kristen had had an idea that he wanted to get our opinion on. She had thought that with all the recent stuff in the news about the FLDS polygamous group out in El Dorado, TX that it would make quite an impact on the community if 34 Christian women were to dress up as Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives and stand in a line with signs around their necks stating that they were wife #x, their name, their age, and “Ask me to tell you my story.” Then on the back of their name cards, it would tell their story and the lady could just read it to whomever asked. Also, to have them be as close as possible to the age they were when Joseph married them, because it was shocking – there were two 14 year olds he married, 2 sixteen year olds, and a few other minors as well.
Well, Kristen organized it beautifully, so as I went looking for Rodney, I saw them all coming down the street. It literally took my breath away to see such a powerful visual picture of how many wives this pervert had. Our team members, Rosanne and Shayla Harris, were two of the wives, and Shayla, being only 15, got to be one of the sad 14 year old wives of Joseph Smith. I got caught up taking pictures and video of them and responding in shock along with the LDS folks who gathered and were taking pictures and asking questions. The response from the community was amazing. So many of the wives were instantly involved in fruitful discussions with LDS folks who had no idea about this dark portion of their church’s history. Also, some of the Christians had prepared a handout that listed all of the wives names, ages at time of marriage, an asterisk by their name if when Joseph married them they already had a living husband (11 of them), and LDS websites that verified all of the information. Another very cool thing is that a lady named Doris, who is a very outspoken ex-polygamist, was there with her books and videos to give out and answer any questions. I cannot communicate in the limited scope of this journal how powerful this was. We had no idea how it would go, but it went so well that it was determined that they would do the same thing on Saturday evening. Eventually I found Rodney and took him over to meet Debbie and her mother, grandmother, and daughter. We sat there for a while and just visited until it was time for the pageant to start. Then we exchanged contact information.
Afterwards when we all went to Miller’s bakery, I was very encouraged to see how excited Rosanne and Shayla and hear the stories about how many people they had gotten to talk to because of being one of the wives. Particularly, I was happy about Shayla, because her first night on the streets was very discouraging and she was expressing doubt that God really had wanted her to come at all. To see this change in her was a HUGE answer to the prayers of myself and Rosanne.
Saturday, June 14
This morning’s training session was taught by a pastor from West Jordan, UT who had founded a church there, and spoke on how to overcome the LDS testimony. The talk was extremely helpful and insightful and inspired all of us.
Back at camp, Keith and I spent some time off to ourselves because we had not been able to catch up with each other at all for several days. After that, we had hoped to spend the rest of our afternoon doing journaling and blogging, but we had a big surprise happen. A guy named Dale showed up in camp. Dale is a guy who Keith met in 2001 who is a LDS from Provo. He came and was looking for us to spend some time hanging out talking. His girlfriend, Jody, joined him too, so we hung out and caught up and they had dinner with all the Christians in the park. I think they were very surprised and felt welcome. Dale and Keith have had some very in-depth conversations over the years and we all feel very comfortable with each other. Dale is not your typical LDS, so some of his beliefs don’t exactly line up with LDS teaching, so it always makes for interesting conversations. He is doing a thing this year where he sets up a table with a survey for “non-LDS Christians” and then all the Christians come take his survey and talk to him. (pretty cool, huh?) Anyway, so that was our whole afternoon so we got NO journaling or blogging done. Oh well.
On the streets………….
My evening started out very unsettling. During the time when the Christians are singing/praying I was in my usual spot watching the Mormons gawk and mock. I started to notice that there were an unusual amount of police of various ranks swarming around. Also, there were two officers whom I had never seen before walking right among all the Christians as they were worshipping and just staring people down. Of course, the saints of God were not phased by it at all, and they just kept praising Jesus. At first I felt happy, like maybe they were genuinely curious, but then I started to feel something uneasy in my spirit. I started taking pictures of how they were prowling about and just praying through how I was feeling and asking for God’s protection to be on us. I wondered if I was just being ridiculous or if maybe there really was something to this. After they were done and I felt like I could get up and walk around for awhile, I ran into Chip and we started talking a little bit. He asked me quietly if I had noticed anything different tonight and I told him I had. He then told me that Steve Nelson (an ex-LDS Christian SWAT team member in Ephraim) had noticed some highs with law enforcement and detectives that he knew of on the streets and that something was up and we needed to all be very watchful and careful tonight. I told him about what I had sensed earlier, so I felt this was confirmation that I wasn’t crazy.
He also mentioned not that he did not like seeing Steve and John prowling the way they were. (Steve and John are some very high up LDS security guys. Keith and I had pegged them the first night as someone to keep an eye on and had individually started building a relationship with them. They wouldn’t talk theology with either one of us, but we had started getting to know one another and were on friendly terms as much as possible with someone is following you around and taking pictures of what you’re doing! We like to joke with them and mess with them about what they’re doing. It’s kinda fun.
Anyway, Chip suggested that we grab a few more folks and just start following THEM around so we could get within 8-10 feet of them and do nothing but huddle up and pray for them and over them. We knew it would rattle them and we figured we needed the prayer coverage big-time. So that’s what we did. We grabbed Jim Bryan from our team and a guy named Garreth from another team and just kept on their heels and prayed, prayed, prayed. Chip and I were both thinking that it had something to do with when the ladies came out again dressed up as Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives. After about an hour of following them around and praying, I mentioned that if he wanted me to, I had something I was talking to them about the night before that I had to finish up with them, so maybe I could go in and distract them for a while. (They had been walking around taking pictures of all the Christians and then going over, huddling up with all the cops and messing with some computer stuff. We found out later that they were inputting our faces into the LDS Church’s face recognition software program. Funny, if they don’t want to be known as a cult, maybe they should stop acting like one. They are so totally paranoid!) Chip urged me to go for it and they would stay close by and pray. I went over to them and we talked and cut up for close to 30 minutes. By the time they excused themselves from our conversation, the polygamous wives had come out and things were really hoppin’ around us.
Chip was involved in a conversation with someone, so I figured the danger had passed. By the time all that was over, I had been on my feet for quite a while, so I decided I should go back to my chair and rest for a bit. I sat down and there on the grass right next to me was a man with his two teenage kids sitting there with a ton of tracts and the Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith DVD that someone had given them, so I got to work. I started to get to know them and the man named Jared seemed real open to talking. His kids listened for a while, but after a short time, they left. Jared started asking which church I was with and some of the typical questions about why I was there. He started to give me some signs with some of his responses to things like maybe he wasn’t a typical LDS. He told me he and his wife had been married in the Manti temple and served LDS missions, but then told me that his children were never baptized LDS. He said they were allowed to research things and that actually, they liked to come to the pageant to walk around and “be witnessed to” by the Christians. He said they always went online and looked for pictures and videos of what we all did on the streets of Manti! I started telling him about our training sessions at the ECB in the mornings and he seemed very interested. I even told him some of the stuff from the talk we had just that morning about not discounting the LDS testimony. His eyes were getting bigger and bigger. Finally, Jared told me that they had not been going to church for some time now and that he had lots of “saved” friends in Orem, UT where her lived and that he loved to have them witness to him and that he was just taking it all in! I about dropped my teeth. I asked him if he was not attending LDS church anymore, was he attending church any where? He said he was just not there yet, and that there was still just a lot of hurt and unsurety as to what to do next. I got so excited when I realized I was talking to a man who God had already had been leading out, but that just needed some help and love to bring him to Christ!
I started telling him about the support of ex-LDS in the area and that even though I knew he lived a long way away, I knew he would be helped by hearing some of their stories. I told him a little bit about some of them and he started to look more and more excited. I also told him about how we run our ex-LDS support group back in San Antonio and that I knew they did things in a similar way here and he said that sounded really wonderful. I also mentioned that there were some CDs of the training sessions that we did in the mornings that if he would like, I would love to mail to him to help him hear some of these testimonies and teaching sessions. He said he would really like that. The more we talked, the better we connected and he seemed very anxious to receive anything I offered. He was such a nice man. I told him that Rosanne, our hostess for our ex-LDS group in San Antonio was here with me and that I wondered if I could introduce him to her, because I thought they would both be so encouraged. He said he would, so we went over to the polygamy wives and found her.
It was so great to see! When he had to go, I asked him if I could pray for him and he said we could. After Rosanne and I prayed for him and his family, he seemed very touched. It was so awesome to see God had already done so much work on this man. (BTW, I decided that since he was being so honest and telling me about how all his “saved” friends were already witnessing to him in Orem, and how he loved it but was just not ready yet, that I would try to offer help from a different angle of getting him connected with ex-LDS Christians. A lot of times, this is the next step toward salvation, talking to someone who has been there and is now saved, because there is a different way they can witness that I can’t.) It was definitely an exciting evening of ministry!
Sunday, June 15
Today was our transition day. The folks at camp had showered and had Rosanne and Shayla packed up by 9:45 so we could attend church at ECB before heading to the airport. We left after church and got to the airport by about 2:40. We said goodbye (sad) to Rosanne and Shayla and picked up Tom (happy). We stopped at Sizzler on the way back down to Manti and had a wonderful Father’s day lunch/supper. We got to camp around 6pm and got Tom set up with his tent and then headed to Wal-Mart to get some needed supplies. Keith brought me back to Junelle’s house around 9:30 and they went back to the park and played cards for a while before going to bed. Not a real eventful day, just lots of driving.
Monday, June 16
Today is our only real day off. Most of it has been spent at Junelle’s house just journaling, doing laundry and escaping from the hummingbird-sized mosquitoes at the park. Our final team members, Jerry and Beth Ankrom got in around 4pm (they drove from SA) so now our seven member team is complete for this week: Keith, myself, Jim Bryan, James Lorenzen, Tom Leas, Jerry and Beth Ankrom. This is the most testosterone-heavy team we have ever had!
Tuesday, June 17
Today at our training session we had Bill McKeever from Mormonism Research Ministry (www.mrm.org) do his teaching. He talked about Joseph Smith and the gold plates and how the story is so obviously fabricated because of all the details surrounding his story. It was very well done and very convincing. During the afternoon it got pretty hot so Beth and I decided we’d go to Junelle’s house. She needed a nap and her tent was too hot to sleep in, plus, my Bible and Bible study stuff was still there and I still needed to have my quiet time. (I had slept later than usual that morning. I normally do my quiet time in the morning, but this worked out quite nice because after I had my time in the Word, I sat down at the piano in Junelle’s piano room at her baby grand piano and played and sang through some worship songs. It was very refreshing.) We did our normal late afternoon schedule with dinner at 4:30 and then a time of hymn-singing and prayer with Timothy Oliver’s group under the pavilion.
On the streets…………..
Tonight was a different kind of night for me. I tried to get some things going with several of the LDS locals, but no one wanted to really talk about anything very in depth. At one point, I was starting to talk to one guy named Rob whom I spoke with a few years ago, but when we were starting something really awful happened right near us. An older man just keeled over about 12 feet away from me. I heard the sound of him hitting the ground and turned and saw his face and it was already starting to turn white. Rob took off for the EMS folks and I immediately grabbed a believer nearby and we started to pray for him. It was really awful to see. It really knocked the wind out of me to see that, so I went and sat down. I found out later that he came out of it and was OK, but I had been sure he had just had a heart attack and died right there on the streets. What a lesson for us.
A little bit later, Eli showed up. He was with his girlfriend Shelby and it was very good to see him. I really was hoping to then spend my whole evening talking with him, but he made it clear to me that he was not staying that night. I told him that was not fair and that I wanted some time to really talk with him. He promised he would be back again another night where we could really sit and talk. That was a bummer to see him walk off when I’d been praying for my next opportunity with him.
The rest of the evening ended up being for the prayer and encouragement of other believers. Our Lutheran friends from Denton, TX showed up again this year and so it was great to see them all again. I spent some time praying with some of their teenagers as they got into various conversations. Also, there was a certain ex-LDS lady from the ECB who had recently had her tubes untied and had been trying to get pregnant with her husband. I had wanting to really spend some concentrated time praying with her about her being pregnant by next year, so God provided that opportunity too.
A few other answers to prayer occurred that I wanted to mention here. I had been praying about God taking the mosquitoes away, and He has answered. They are probably 1/8 of what they were before. Also, Tom was really worried that he would have a hard time getting into a conversation with anyone, but he spent all evening under the EMS tent with an elderly LDS gentleman and having a wonderful opportunity with all the medical folks. One more…..I saw Beth early in the evening looking kind of down, and when I went up to her, she was crying. From lack of sleep and some other medical issues she was having she was just not doing well and had resigned herself to just sitting on the sidelines for the evening and not really trying to talk to anyone because she was feeling so bad. I prayed with her and Jerry and then they gathered their stuff and found a spot on the grass. The two of them sat there and prayed again, and as soon as their heads came up, two elderly LDS ladies were sitting down next to them. Jerry and Beth are both schoolteachers and these ladies were retired schoolteachers. They spent most of their evening talking with these ladies and reaching out to them. It was a great story and it got Beth “in the game.” She saw God use her and mentioned the verse from II Cor. About “when we are weak, He is strong.” All of our team members had good evenings. It’s always a great joy to me to see our new team members have a good first night of witnessing.
After our time on the streets was over, Bill McKeever dropped me off back at Junelle’s house and Darrin (Junelle’s husband) was home. I had planned on going to bed early, but we ended up in the music room. He plays guitar and sings, so we spent some time singing and playing through some more worship songs. That was really fun. Bed about 11:30. There was an LDS lady in the house whose son was playing video games with Junelle’s son, so maybe God will use the music we were playing to help soften her to the gospel!