It was another great year at the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti Utah! The pageant ran 8 nights starting on the 16th of June through the 18th and the 21st through the 25th of June.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the pageant, so Doug, my evangelism partner and best friend, decided to help in the Christian witnessing efforts of the 50th anniversary celebration with a new shirt that read, “The Church of Joseph Smith of Latter-day Saints.”
Along with this caption was the reference to Joseph Smith’s statement of boasting that he has done a greater work than anyone else, even than Jesus where Smith said:
“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam…Neither Paul, John, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (Church History vol 6, pp. 408-409).
Doug and I also designed a business card tract to go with his shirt with this quote along with a picture of Joseph Smith on the card. The emphases of the shirt and tract was to create conversation around the topic of who was more important in the LDS church, Joseph Smith or Jesus?
Surprisingly, Doug had fewer conversations while wearing this shirt than we both had expected but the conversations he did have were very shocking to the LDS, with them saying it was just a lie until Doug would show them the quote in their own LDS published Church History, Volume 6.
One elderly lady approached Doug and asked him what he meant by saying the Church of Joseph Smith of Latter-day Saints. Doug explained Joseph Smith’s boasting that he was greater than Jesus so why didn’t Joseph Smith call it his church instead of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
After a short discussion she left and returned with her husband. Doug explained the same thing to the husband and showed him our boasting tract. The elderly man stated that he was a direct descendent of Joseph Smith and argued that Joseph said that he had done a greater work than anyone else except Jesus. Doug showed him that the quote stated that Joseph boasted that he did a greater work even than Jesus. The elderly man said that his card was a lie so Doug showed him out of the LDS Church History volume 6 the exact quote of Joseph Smith boasting that no man did such a work as he, not even Jesus, that Jesus’ followers ran away from him but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from him.
Doug explained that Joseph never said except for Jesus and by stating that Jesus’ followers ran from him but Joseph’s followers never ran from him identifies that Joseph Smith believed he was greater than Jesus.
This elderly man got so upset with Doug for sharing that Joseph Smith was a boaster that his elderly wife had to grab him by the arm and pulled him back into the pageant, the whole time she was pulling him away he was still defending Smith saying, “So why was it called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”
Jerry, a Christian missionary from Texas, and myself were talking one evening just after the pageant gates opened at 6:00pm, when an LDS young man named Alturo approached us. After some small talk and introductions Alturo struck up a conversation about the Book of Mormon being true and reliable, probably in light of my shirt “Why don’t Mormons Believe the Book of Mormon?”
Jerry started right in by asking Alturo why he thought the Book of Mormon was true when there is no archeology or evidence to prove the Book of Mormon history nor any other manuscripts except Joseph Smith’s claim. Jerry went on to explain that biblical history and ancient manuscripts validate the Bible yet nothing validates the Book of Mormon so for him to believe that the Book of Mormon was about ancient Jewish inhabitants in the Americas, there would have to be some sort of proof to back it up and since there is no evidence Jerry said he couldn’t believe it to be true.
Alturo explained that in the Book of Mormon it asks you to pray about it and the Holy Ghost would tell you it is true. I asked Alturo if he was talking about Moroni 10:4 and he said yes and that this verse proved to him that the Book of Mormon was true when he prayed about it and was given a feeling of truth.
Jerry explained that since the Book of Mormon was already in question because of the lack of evidence for proof of validation then why would anyone; including himself believe that Moroni 10:4 had any validity of its self-worth praying about to know whether that book in question was true.
I stepped in by adding that in Jeremiah 17:9 it states that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know it. The answer is that God only truly knows our heart and that we can even deceive ourselves. Then I shared Proverbs 3:5 and 6:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
I explained that Jerry and I also know that the Book of Mormon is not true without even praying about it because in Galatians 1:6-9 the Apostle Paul warns that if anyone, even an angel, comes preaching another gospel than what Paul has preached then they are to be accursed. I reminded Alturo that according to Joseph Smith it was an angel that gave him the Book of Mormon.
I went on to explain that the Book of Mormon preached a gospel of self exalting works to receive God’s grace and the Bible preaches grace by faith without adding your own works. I quoted Ephesians 2:8 and 9 explaining that it was by faith we receive God’s grace and not through our own works.
Yet the Book of Mormon states we are saved by grace AFTER all we can do (Nephi 25:23) and AFTER we have denied ourselves of all ungodliness (Moroni 10:32). Alturo tried defending salvation by works saying that we are commanded to do good works, that good works prove our faith. That obedience to the laws and ordinances is part of the gospel. I read him Galatians 2:16:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
I also read to him John 6:28-29,
“Then said they unto him, what shall we do, that we might work the work(s) of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work [singular] of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
I went on to explain that Paul said that we are justified, made righteous, through faith and not by trying to keep the law and Jesus explained that the only work required was to believe in Jesus.
Alturo was listening and seemed somewhat rattled and stopped arguing works for salvation so I went to Genesis 15:5 and explained that Abram (Abraham) was made righteous through faith in God 400 years before the law was given to Moses so Abraham couldn’t become righteous when there was no law to obey. By the look on Alturo’s face, we could tell that he was being convicted by the Word of God so I explained that through faith, Jerry and I have already been made righteous and have received eternal life, not by the good works we do but by Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
Then Alturo changed directions by quoting, what he said was his favorite verse of the Book of Mormon, most likely due to us claiming we already have eternal life. He read Alma 38:11:
“See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength.”
Alturo explained that he tries to conduct his life according to this Scripture. I replied that I liked what it said and that this was a good way to conduct one’s life. Then I handed him our Joseph Smith boasting tract and asked him if that would apply to Alma 38:11?
As he read it, we could see that he became upset by Smith’s boasting and handed the tract back to me. I told him he could keep it but he wanted nothing to do with it. He was visibly upset and after explaining that he needed to get back to his group, we shook hands and he left.
Please be in prayer for Alturo and the hundreds of other LDS that received tracts and talked with the 200+ Christian missionaries over the 8 day event.
In His Grace and Mercy,
Rob and Doug