by Rachel Beckman, correspondent
In the span of just a year, a new church, neither Catholic nor evangelical, has arrived and opened its doors to the Chicago community. Near the intersection between Clark St. and Chicago Ave., a short walk from Moody Bible Institute, stands a new Mormon meeting house. In response, a few Moody students have created a club, called Temple Run, that focuses strictly on Mormon outreach.
The club, led by Delaney Bonacquisti, freshman linguistics major, Eric Jacobs, sophomore theology major, and Autumn Wilson, a sophomore communications major, began in the spring semester of 2018 and had a turnout of several dozen students on February 2nd.
“Before [the meeting house was built], we didn’t have a sense of urgency, but now they are so close,” Jacobs said. “The Lord brought them to our doorstep and I think we should take advantage of that opportunity.”
Named for the Temple that is essential to the Mormon religion, Temple Run aims to do a run-through of the Mormon theology so that Moody students can be equipped for meaningful conversations with church attendees.
“Mormons are people and they are misguided…they have reasons for what they believe,” Wilson said. “It is easy to go hard on evangelism, but we Moody students need to approach [them] with knowledge, compassion, and prayer before anything else.”
Mormonism, through the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), has strong ties with the West Coast, but their missionary efforts are creating a need to open churches all around America. Many question the Mormon church and what denomination it falls under. The answer lies in 14-year-old Joseph Smith’s vision of God in 1820.
According to the LDS website, God the Father and God the Son appeared to Joseph Smith and instructed him to reorganize the church, which had fallen, leading to the establishment of the Church of Latter Day Saints in 1830. In addition to his reestablishment of the “original church,” Smith was visited by “an ancient prophet… [who] showed him a religious history of an ancient American civilization engraved on metal plates and buried in the ground” and was given the task of translating them to reveal the history of Jesus Christ in relation to American civilization.
While they consider themselves Christians and claim both the Book of Mormon and the Bible as inspired scripture, Mormons believe in a religion with doctrine that is entirely different from traditional Christian thought.
“They like coughing over their theology and they believe in a very different God,” Wilson said.
Among the various beliefs held by the Mormon church, they view God the Father as a being of physical body and flesh. Accordingly, they deny the virgin birth and claim Jesus’ conception as resulting from God the Father and Mary. It was a result of natural action, therefore Jesus was not preeminent or preexistent in their eyes, skewing the unity of the trinity.
Additionally, the church of LDS denies original sin. Instead, they perceive Adam and Eve’s disobedience as an opened pathway towards righteousness. Under these conditions, obedient Mormons have the potential to achieve godhood.
As stated by founder Joseph Smith, “Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God the same as all gods have done before you.”
“They believe God the Father has a physical body, meaning that God is subject to temptation just as much as humans are,” Wilson said. “If he is subject to temptation, then he is not completely good. If he isn’t completely good, he is not the same God we, Christians, worship.
The loose meaning of salvation through Christ, post-mortem baptism, and three levels of glory in the afterlife result in a belief system that is works-based. Unlike Christians, who believe Christ’s grace brought salvation, Mormons hold to the idea that they can become deserving of godhood through good morals and faithful worship.
According to Bonacquisti, “Despite the ultimate gain of godliness for a devout Mormon in the afterlife, the stakes for one thinking of denying his faith are incredibly high.”