While it was not the first time a Mormon ran for U.S. President (others include Orin Hatch, Jon Huntsman and Joseph Smith himself in 1844), the 2012 election marked the largest number of votes cast (58 of 122 million votes went for Mitt Romney) for a Mormon in history.
Coupled with a visible Mormon-sponsored TV commercial campaign and a popular Broadway play called “Book of Mormon,” the Mormon religion was on the minds of most Americans in 2012. Was this just a flash in the plan, a passing fad, or does it represent something more significant?
If the Mormon’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) had its way, it would be the sign of times to come. In fact, in an aggressive move, the LDS recently changed its policy to allow women to serve on missions at age 19 instead of 21, and men may serve at 18 instead of 19. This has already resulted in an upsurge of enlistees, and LDS officials hope for all the more.
While Southern Baptists have nearly 5,000 missionaries throughout the world, it has been reported that the Mormon church has some 55,000 people in the field at any given time. All of this momentum begs the question, how could a false religion be growing?
It is important to note for the record that, while its adherents claim it is the true religion of Jesus Christ, Mormonism is not compatible or consistent with the historic Christian Faith. In matters of primary doctrine and beliefs, such as the Trinity, the nature of God and salvation by grace, Christians are at an unbridgeable impasse with Mormonism. While we love Mormons, we cannot abide Mormonism nor let it pass itself off as Christian.
That being said, the surge of Mormonism worldwide, and in America in particular, is astounding. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1) Short-term gains are not uncommon. The dust bin of history is full of religions that came and went, such as Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. What is popular today can quickly become yesterday’s news, especially in a society like ours. That being said, we should not assume that all gains will be short term. Islam, for example, swept across Europe and the Middle East more than 13 centuries ago and is still strong and growing today.
2) Truth wins. In Acts 5, the Jewish leaders wished to silence the apostles, but wise Gamaliel knew better. He said, “Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re going to do to these men. Not long ago, Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about 400 men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his partisans were dispersed and came to nothing. … For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (V. 35-39a) While it is tempting to think that deceptions can last, we know from the Scriptures that Truth will win out in the long run.
3) Let’s use the moment. If the so-called “Mormon moment” stays or go, we must be prepared as Christians to seize this opportunity to advance the Gospel. For example, when coworkers are talking about Mormonism, we would be served well to know about the religion’s beliefs, history and demographics. Bumper sticker logic no longer will suffice. Questions and conversations today about Mormonism could lead someone you know to Christ tomorrow. Let’s do as the Scriptures say: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (2 Pet. 3:15)
In the end, we should be thankful that the world is talking about things of an eternal nature, rather than the latest ball game or newest movie. Who knows, but the “Mormon moment” could be a springboard leading to the True Church’s finest hour.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we have everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
Thus began one of the most famous novels of all time, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. The work goes on to tell about the volcanic circumstances surrounding the French Revolution, but the same words could be said of our own days.
As one year ends and a new one begins, it is easy for believers to fall into one of two traps. We could believe that, just because a new calendar year arrives, all will go well, and the baggage of yesteryear is behind us. Or, we could despair about wickedness in our land and become hopeless. The outbreak of violence in the land, such as the school shootings in Connecticut, is a stark reminder that our enemy was alive and active in his destruction in 2012.
Though 2012 had its difficulties, there was much good happening in the world. At Falls Creek, there were a record number of decisions for Christ made in the summer. Leading up to the elections, there was a renewed interest in revival through prayer, and we also saw the Gospel spread to new parts of the world.
Overall, was 2012 a good year or bad year? The answer is a little bit of both. For a glaring example to illustrate, take the Oklahoma wildfires. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, lives were lost and more than 100,000 acres of land of the Sooner State was burned. Yet in response to this tragedy, Oklahomans (led by Oklahoma Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers) made an impact by serving these affected families and communities, all in the Name of Jesus. While we continue to grieve with those who experienced loss, we find hope among the ashes.
What will 2013 hold? Only God knows the answer to that. There are, however, fixed things we can keep in mind as we venture into the New Year.
• Trust God. Amid tumultuous times, it is important to cling to the Rock of God’s Word. The most quoted Proverb says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6).
• Make wise decisions. You may have heard the following saying: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” On any given day, we are making decisions that ultimately affect our destiny. In 2013 and beyond, it is important to keep this principle in mind.
• Serve others. In 2013, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, in partnership with associations and churches, will embark on a joint servant evangelism project called “Serve Oklahoma.” The outreach will be launched officially at the State Evangelism Conference (bgco.org/sec) later this month, and you will hear more about it in the pages of the Baptist Messenger.
Whatever the year looks like, we would do well to serve like Jesus who “did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45).
While we cannot control the destiny of this year, we do know from His Holy Word that there are some simple steps that we, as Christians, can take this year to ensure that, whatever bad happens, good will come of it.
The other day, my daughter asked me, “Daddy, why is the post office closed on Sunday?”
“It is a leftover practice from a time in this country in which most, if not all, businesses were closed on Sunday,” I said.
“But why?” she further inquired.
“Well, America was largely influenced by Christians, most of whom recognized Sunday as a special day set aside for rest, known as a Sabbath,” I said.
This conversation forced me to look around and realize that today, most Christians treat Sundays like any other day. Previous generations of Baptists would shudder to see the way we live, shop and work on Sundays.
[et_bloom_locked optin_id=”optin_4″]While some blue laws remain on the books in Oklahoma, such as for car dealerships and bars, the rest of our culture has pretty much given up on the idea of Sunday as a day dedicated for worship, let alone rest.
Meanwhile, in Europe, a movement is afoot to reclaim Sundays. A group called the “European Sunday Alliance,” which is not exclusively Christian-based, is pushing for laws to protect Sundays. The Alliance stated, “in June, 2012 that Sunday ‘shall not be sacrificed for economic interests. It needs to be protected as the day of rest and of social gathering’”. Spain, in particular, is a hot spot of debate as to whether Sunday now should be part of the work week.
What, if anything, does our public attitude indicate about Sunday in America? Is Sunday just another day, or should it be treated differently?
Biblical commentators point out that Christians are no longer under the law, and we are not required to keep the Sabbath. While no one wants the shackles of legalism, what have Christians given up by treating Sunday like any other day? Let’s look at some benefits of treating Sunday as special.
~A day of rest
In the Bible, the Sabbath was given as a gift to man (Gen. 2:2-3). U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an observant Jew, even recently wrote a book on the topic (obviously, he refers to Saturday, not Sundays like we understand it), called The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath. In our hustle-and-bustle world, a dedicated day of rest would be a huge blessing.
~Dedicated worship time
“Super Bowl Sunday” is not the only time of year the world competes for a slice of Sunday. Closer to home, little league tournaments, for example, have many Christian families away from church on Sundays. In times past, secular groups understood Sunday was off limits, that it is a day for worship. Each week, the ringing church bells and quieting of commerce were a testimony to our desire to turn aside for dedicated worship of God. It is not too late to realign our habits in this way.
The Baptist Messenger recently published an in-depth series exploring family breakdown. One of the leading indicators of family health was the amount of time a family spends at the dinner table together. In America, through our fast-food formulas and disconnected culture, we have done away with the blessings of shared meal times and Sunday as “family day,” all for the sake of a little more efficiency and alleged productivity.
While no one is suggesting a return to legalism or new laws for Oklahoma, it is time for a call for each Christian to examine our habits and attitudes on Sundays. Are we missing any of God’s blessings by the way we now treat the day?
In Christ, we have freedom, but we must be deliberate in our choice. As Paul stated, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord.” (Romans 14:5-6a).
Taking back Sundays for you could mean abstaining from social media on that day. It could mean not firing up the lawn mower. It could mean skipping that trip to the mall or meal out.
Our decisions, week by week, could have more of an impact on our families and society than we ever could realize.