In Utah, Mormonism and its influence are a part of the air we breathe. Mormons often dominate in society. That may seem daunting to non-Mormons, especially newcomers. But there is hope.
If you’re new to Utah, this is the first part of a series we have prepared to help you explore how to adapt to life as a minority in the midst of a dominant religious culture.
In Utah, Christians Live in a Culture Dominated By a Different Faith
America is a land of increasing pluralism and diversity. By contrast, Utah is dominated by a single religion. For example, throughout the state, 70% of residents are Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons), while all other faiths combined claim only 9% of residents. The numbers in your community may vary somewhat, but the overall effect is the same. Mormonism and its influence are part of the air we breathe. Mormons are often dominant in government, education, and business. That may seem daunting to a newcomer, but there is hope.
Living in Utah, You Can Not Only Survive but Thrive
People who are new in Utah quickly notice the differences and often wonder how they can hang on until they have a chance to move away. We believe that you can have a more hopeful experience here. In fact, you can have a positive influence for Jesus Christ in this state. Mormonism is changing. There are unprecedented opportunities for Christian witness here. We encourage you to team up with a healthy local church to reach the people who live around you with the good news of God’s grace that everyone needs to hear. This series will help equip you. Let’s begin with an important perspective on attitude.
We Have a Positive Message for Our LDS Neighbors
As Christians, our message is that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received by faith in Jesus alone. We know this from the Bible alone. This message creates a tension, because, biblically, Mormonism represents a “different gospel.” (See “Are Mormons Christians?“)
2 Corinthians 11:4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
Our most essential beliefs stand in opposition to Mormon beliefs. The tension arises because Mormons can be very sensitive to critique. If Christians point out areas of disagreement, we may be seen as attacking the Mormons’ beloved church. Tension also arises because Mormons are committed to converting Christians to their “gospel.” For these reasons, religion in Utah can be a sensitive issue. Knowing that, we interact with Mormons in a certain way. (See “Overcoming Antagonism with Good News“.)
We Choose to Talk About Mormonism with a Respectful Attitude
First, our message is positive, not negative. It’s about God’s life-changing grace in Jesus, not about what’s wrong with Mormonism. Second, we share our message with respect.
1 Peter 3:15-16 If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.
How we speak is as important as what we say. There is a right and a wrong way to share about our hope in Christ. Consider the example of the apostle Paul and his team in Ephesus. Acts 19 describes a powerful response to the message of Jesus. People were dramatically saved; their lives were decisively changed. Yet, when the impact of the message created opposition, the city’s own chief leader defended the Christians.
Acts 19:37 You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.
All of the amazing changes produced in Ephesus by the message of Jesus happened without Christians speaking derisively about the local religion. Christians should not minimize our differences with Mormonism. But it doesn’t help if we communicate in a way that makes our neighbors get defensive and feel persecuted. It doesn’t accomplish anything if people reject Mormonism but don’t embrace a new faith in Jesus Christ. That’s why how Christians talk about Mormonism matters.
We Choose to Interact with Mormons with Wisdom and Sensitivity
Christians need to represent Mormons accurately and fairly. We should interact with them as real people, not as stereotypes. We should avoid complaining about LDS people and culture. In other words, we should treat our neighbors in the same way we would hope to be treated.
Furthermore, we think Christians in Utah should understand Mormonism as a culture, not just as a religion or set of beliefs. People are more than just what they believe. Mormonism is a unique identity and way of life. This is a fundamental point to really understanding our neighbors; one we’ll explore more fully in the next lesson.
Sharing Good News with LDS Is Challenging but Hopeful
A number of factors make it difficult to share God’s good news with Mormons. For example, despite similar outward lifestyles, Mormon and Christian worldviews are very different. Mormons use the same words as traditional Christians, but with very different meanings. (See “Mormonism’s Language Barrier“) Mormons have a deeply rooted heritage that resists change. Mormons often feel capable and self-sufficient, so they don’t see a need for the Christian gospel.
But there is also reason for Christians in Utah to have hope. Growing numbers of Latter-day Saints have troubling questions about Mormon history and practices. People on the fringes of Mormon culture are drifting farther away. Many Mormons are coming to new faith in Jesus. In fact, 30% of those raised Mormon leave the LDS Church, and about half of those find a new faith home in a historic Christian church of some kind.
At most Bible-teaching churches in Utah, one-third of the members are former LDS. Churches that practice a wise and sensitive approach, which speak the truth gently and without attacking, are growing. We encourage Christians moving to Utah to expect God to work through them, in partnership with their churches, to make a difference here. Living as a religious minority in Utah, you can not only survive, but thrive.
The next lesson features an overview of core Mormon beliefs and basic features of Mormon culture to help you better understand the people who are your neighbors.
[Related Series: Conversations on Mormonism]