In early August of 2000, a full color, sixteen-page insert was in The Birmingham News, announcing an open house for "The completion of the Temple" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-the Mormons. In it, Gordon Hinckley, President of the denomination, gave reasons for the erection of the edifice; it also contained pictures of other such structures, as well as brief articles describing the beliefs and practices of the church. It was obvious the Mormons had spared no expense.
But, this was not news to many of us. A couple of months before, two young ladies visited my house and discussed religion with me in the living room. They were from the LDS; they subsequently invited me to the open house. When I turned the conversation to the lack of validity of the Book of Mormon and the credibility of Joseph Smith, they quickly left.
When the time drew near for the open house, I decided to pay a visit. Since the temple would be located in Gardendale, it would be just a few miles from Morris. The local papers, by this time, devoted several articles to the event. One "cult watch" group-Watchman Fellowship-also announced its intent to hand out opposition material during that time.
On the day I visited, I was struck by how small the structure actually is. A gold statue of "the angel Moroni" is on top; no such angel can be found listed in Scripture. The edifice itself is made of white marble on the outside. The meetinghouse, separate from the temple, is a rather plain brick building and quite small. Those of us who came (I was by myself) were escorted into the smaller building, where we toured it and were then shepherded into an outside tent. Again, no expense had been spared. The tents were all air-conditioned. Inside, we saw a video of Gordon Hinckley welcoming everyone. It also briefly discussed the purpose of the temple.
As we walked to the main edifice, there were two rows of people seated at the front door. We were instructed to sit down and allow them to put slipcovers over our shoes, so as not to ruin the plush carpet inside. We were also told it would be a silent tour, with no cameras allowed.
The first room we entered contained the baptismal font, where "baptisms for the dead" are performed. This practice is a gross misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29, which in context is addressing the validity of the resurrection. It is referring to the Corinthians's own baptism, not a practice for deceased family members.
The baptistery is a twelve-sided structure, with stairs going down into it and an observation deck above. One can also see down underneath it from the deck; on each side, at the bottom, is a statue of an ox. The twelve oxen, it was explained earlier, represents the twelve tribes of Israel.
We were then slowly led through the men and women's dressing rooms into the "Endowment Room." In it, Mormons are instructed in their doctrines and engage in "making covenants." I had to wonder: would any replacement parts, such as light bulbs, wires, and pipes, have to be "dedicated" before they could be used? The mind reels.
The "Sealing Room," it had been explained, is where families are "sealed together as an eternal family." Of course, Jesus taught that marriages do not continue after this life in Luke 20:34-36. Paul also flatly declared that a wife is freed from the marriage bond upon the death of her husband, in Romans 7:1-3. Thus, there is a contradiction between Mormon doctrine and the Bible.
In the room itself, there is an oval kneeling bench in the center. Above, there is an elaborate dome chandelier. As is the case throughout the building, it was brightly lit. Also, there are beautiful paintings in each room. One only need observe the materials used to perceive the enormous amount of money spent.
The last room we entered was the "Celestial Room." It had been explained that the room "Symbolizes the exalted and reverent state" of the "Celestial Heaven." Space does not allow for a full explanation and refutation of LDS teaching concerning heaven; suffice it to say Mormons believe that man can achieve godhood! Integral to their beliefs is the "three heavens"-terrestrial, telestial and celestial. Such teaching is not biblical. (For a more full refutation of Mormonism, see the July 1993 issue of The Spiritual Sword, "Mormonism.") Again, there was a dome chandelier above. The room itself resembled an elaborate living room.
When we exited, there were those ready to take the slipcovers off of our shoes. In order to leave, one had to pass through more tents. Inside were tables of Mormon material and members ready to answer questions. I picked up several brochures and departed. Off of the grounds, Watchman Fellowship was passing our anti-LDS material to any that would receive it. Of course, Watchman Fellowship is Calvinistic in doctrine.
Several obvious points need to be made. First, it was declared that the Mormon temple is "the house of the Lord-the most sacred place on earth." This contradicts both Stephen, in Acts 7:48-50, and Paul in Acts 17:24. Also, 1 Corinthians 3:16 says that Christians are the temple of God.
Second, Christians are saints because of their obedience to the Gospel-not because of an Third, the Gospel is for all people-on this side of eternity. It is not to be preached to those who have already passed on. 2 Corinthians 6:2 plainly says "now" is the time to obey. 2 Corinthians 5:10 also says we will be judged according to the things "done in the body." elaborate ritual or progression of man-made steps. 1 Corinthians 1:2 is clear on this matter.
Having said that, though, there are some further observations that need to be made. First, every member present was polite and helpful. They were determined to present a "good face" to the general public. Second, each person was dressed in his best clothes, from the youngest to the oldest. I noticed the stark contrast with the Watchman Fellowship, whose members were dressed more for a surfing party than a serious refutation of Mormonism. Third, the LDS is not ashamed of its doctrines. They openly declared them and were willing to defend them.
The point? We in the Lord's church need to be more vigilant in aggressively presenting the Truth of the Gospel to the world. We need to be courteous in demeanor. Our dress must be modest at all times. We must be willing to stand for the Truth. Since the church is the pillar and ground of the Truth, we must be conscious of how we present ourselves and the message of God. Will we allow Mormonism to be more successful than New Testament Christianity?
Given the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has recently declared its intent to boldly proclaim its beliefs, and the erection of the Mormon temple in Gardendale, we in the Lord's church must sit up and take notice. More importantly, we must capture the spirit of the early church and go everywhere preaching the Word!
-David W. Hester