THE MANTI REPORT
Charis, Rob, and Tara Sivulka
For those of you who are unaware, every year, a little town in central Utah called “Manti” hosts The Mormon Miracle Pageant for 8 nights. This play performance begins at dusk on a grassy slope coming down from the Manti Temple. The play features the early beginnings of Mormonism with some stories from the Book of Mormon as well as a historical-fictional tale of the pioneers trek out west. (Here’s a short video clip of the pageant that I took 4 years ago, which will give you an idea of the blasphemy that it promotes.) Thousands of Mormons come each night to watch the performance. The last several years have averaged around 85,000 attendees for the whole 8 nights, and thus it makes a great opportunity to get the gospel out to many.
Christian worship service at the Manti Pageant
This year we had far more Christian missionaries than I’ve ever seen before (and I’ve been going to the pageant since at least 1992). On certain nights, we had around 300! So while the number of pageant attendees has almost consistently dropped for the last 11 years, the number of Christian evangelists has continued to increase. Here’s a video taken this year of why Christians continue to come to Manti each year (I come in at 11:26).
Group from Pantego Bible Church, Arlington, TX
We have a good 3 hours each night to evangelize prior to start of the pageant. Christians mostly dialogue with other LDS in one-on-one conversations. Some will pass tracts out, some will carry crosses, one totes a gold plates replica around in a wagon for others to feel how heavy they were (Smith claimed that he was able to run with this specific dimension of plates and gave no indication of divine intervention), others hold signs, some will play and sing worship music, others will draw pictures of the temple to get in conversations, others will just pray, and some others, like myself, will occasionally preach. With Christians from various denominations from all over the States (one of my Presbyterian buddies flew out from Delaware), and some from at least a couple different countries (England and Canada), it is really amazing to see how well we all work with each other.
Preparation for Battle
Each morning of the pageant, the Christians are invited to come to Ephraim Church of the Bible located in the town just above Manti. We sing and pray together, and then someone speaks on some aspect of Mormonism. I opened up the 1st session with a short motivational talk, and then spoke on “10 Reason Why Christians Do Not Believe the Book of Mormon.” The video will be up later this month.
Ephraim pastor Chip Thompson (left) with former LDS bishops Earl Erskine (center) and Lee B. Baker (right)
This year was the first year we've ever had a former LDS bishop share with our group. In fact, we had 2 former LDS bishops share--Lee B. Baker on the 23rd and Earl Erskine on the 30th. Both were very encouraging to listen to. Even LDS authorities aren't too beyond Christ's saving power!
Rob talking to 2 LDS women after his prayer
At a little after 6 PM each night of the pageant, Christians gather together to sing and pray some more just before we break off to evangelize. That first night, I was asked to pray. So I turned it into an opportunity to preach loudly enough for the LDS who were listening around us. I prayed that the Lord would have mercy on them, open their eyes and ears, and save them. Immediately afterwards, 2 LDS women approached me to talk to me about what we were doing. They couldn’t understand, since religion was simply a personal matter to them. Of course if that were true, we would all be wasting our time doing evangelism (including their own missionaries). However, I tried to argue that religion was also a matter of objective fact, which may be proven true or false. If we’re in a false religion, then we need someone to warn us about it.
"No Proselyting or evangelizing Allowed." That didn't keep Rob from preaching to them from the public street prior to the beginning of the pageant.
Each night, I had a number of wonderful conversations with individuals, as well as with small groups. Sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get people to stop and talk with me. My approach was to ask people if they’d like my Temple Square Vistor’s Guide. I’d tell them that I’m a Christian missionary, who passes this guide out in Salt Lake City, and would like for them to read a few pages of what I believe. I’d also keep asking people as they passed by if they were LDS. Many would ignore me, but many would say that they were indeed LDS. Out of those who told me they were, only a small fraction would stop to tell me why they were LDS. One lady continued to walk past me, but told me something I’ve never heard from a Mormon before. She said that the reason she was LDS is because she was smart!
Rob preaches to the crowd
I was physically assaulted twice while I shared my faith in Manti. One guy came up and pushed me while I was preaching to a crowd sitting on a lawn. The cops immediately pulled him aside and got his information. They then came to me and asked if I wanted to press charges, but I declined.
LDS John, who later pushed Rob
The other guy that assaulted me flipped out only after we had a nice 10 to 15 minute conversation. John was upset that I refused to acknowledge that he was a “genuine” Christian. I told him I wasn’t really concerned about whether he called himself a “Christian” or not. My concern wasn’t labels; it was truth. And if he was following a false Jesus, then he was obviously a false Christian. He began to walk away, so I told him that he wasn’t even listening to his own scripture in D&C 71:7-8, which says to call upon your enemies both in public and in private to shame them according to your faithfulness. It goes on to say that you’re to let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord. At that point, he came back and body pushed me! He got in my face and swiped my sunglasses off the top of my head. I then told him it was even more obvious to me that he wasn’t a Christian, since he wasn’t showing any of the fruit of the Spirit. Fortunately, the cops came again to my rescue, and broke us up.
LDS guy who feigned sincerity to get Rob to stop preaching
Here’s an interesting video taken of me preaching before I got pushed. What’s interesting here, isn’t me; it’s the guy recording the video. At 2:08, he says, “Joseph Smith had 34 wives? Don’t recall that one.” This proves that at least some people actually get at least something I preach. Hopefully this truth will bug him into doing more research.
After this preaching time, 3 young gals came up to me to ask me more about my beliefs. They had very thoughtful questions, but unfortunately someone came to drag them into watching the pageant.
There were way too many conversations for me to even remember. But we can all pray that God would use the words that were spoken by all the evangelists there. He is faithful to bring the increase! In fact, I heard of at least 3 salvations while I was there.
Aaron on bullhorn duty
Every night after the pageant, with the exception of the last night, Aaron Shafovaloff and I preached for 15 minutes to the crowd going back to their cars. Every year, the city gives us a free permit to do this with a megaphone. One night, someone threw a water bottle at me as they were driving by. Thankfully, it was nowhere close to hitting me. After I got done preaching, I walked over in front of the temple, and gave the crowd driving out one last remembrance of Manti by pointing to my “MormonInfo.org/JosephLied.com” sign. On the last night, a couple came over to me while I was walking over to advertise my sign. They said they were drawn over to hear what I was saying via the megaphone. They said they heard me talking about changes in the Book of Mormon from its original version. They were both former Mormons, but the guy was an agnostic. I got to encourage him not to throw the baby out with the bathwater as so many LDS do after they find out their church isn’t true. They were from the Salt Lake Valley, so I invited them to check out our ex-Mormon Meetup sometime.
We had a great time with about 20 people last month at our Ex-Mormon Meetup. Evie Wilson shared her story of coming out of the occult as well as Mormonism. You may view it here and see pictures of our Meetup here.
We Need Your Partnership!
We not only need your prayers, but we need your financial assistance as well. We took quite another hit last month with being let go of my part-time teaching job that provided half our income. Keep in mind that your investment is not simply for us, but for the lives of others we reach with the gospel. The standard way to financially invest is by writing a check to Courageous Christians United (CCU). But we also have secure electronic funds transfer programs available if you are interested in the simplicity of monthly withdrawals without the stamp. This also helps us with our monthly budgeting. For more information, please see our "Invest" page. Please also keep in mind that, particularly in this economy, we have no financial guarantees each month. Ministry partners come and go as jobs do. If you’re not a partner, please consider joining our team and let us know soon. We’d love to be your missionaries here in Utah. Many thanks to those of you who hold us up in prayer and in your financial giving!
“Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9)!
President, Courageous Christians United
P.O. Box 1374
West Jordan, UT 84084
****ADDITIONAL PRAYER REQUESTS****
1. Health and protection for our whole family
2. Tara’s and Maddi’s families to be saved
3. Wisdom in all our dealings
4. Youth Pioneer Pageant evangelism in West Jordan, UT from July 21, 23-24
5. God’s blessing as I begin short radio shows on Mormonism for 820 AM here in Utah the beginning of next month
Thanks much Rob. I think the work you are doing with mormons is great and God inspired. I have benefited much by your ministry and in multiple ways. God bless,
I had a question for you. I am by no means obsessed with End Times prophecy but when I read a description of the anti-Christ I read that they will have a false prophet by their side and will perform miracles through the false prophet. Could this be Romney, Monson and the LDS priesthood? I think a lot of people assume the anti-Christ will be like in the Left Behind films but the LDS Church is the only church I am aware of that has a false prophet at its helm.
[I replied:] The power of the anti-Christ spoken of in the Bible seems way more powerful than the checks and balances that any LDS U.S. president would have. You should read Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin. There are all sorts of churches with false prophets at the helm.
Thanks for the opportunity to partner in your ministry. We will be lifting you up in prayer.
…I withdrew my membership in the LDS Church a long time ago. I'd just like to try to suggest to those debating Mormon doctrine and practices, that it is all about the premise. Establish a premise and you can logically prove about anything that you want. The Mormon premise is Joseph Smith and "modern revelation." A Christian's premise is the Holy Word, unadulterated and unspoiled and divinely protected by the hand of God. If you feel you are called to try to convert these people, good luck and may God bless your effort. But if they don't have ears, they are absolutely not going to hear you. Once these people get their "testimony," and that warm, fuzzy feeling, most of them will be lost and they will stay lost. My question is: who plants that burning in their bosom? Scary isn't it.