Collegians flex passion for Mormon witness
SALT LAKE CITY (BP)--Talking to Mormons in Utah during spring break was frustrating at times and humbling, these collegians said, but it strengthened their walk with God.
David Collett, one of the leaders of a team from Corban College in Oregon, said he likes to witness to Mormons because "it's very intellectual, and apologetics comes into play a lot, and that's an area of evangelism I think I do well in."
Collett's first visit to Salt Lake City, however, was during a road trip with his cousin. They began having car trouble outside the city and managed to get to a repair shop. They were told the part they needed would take a day to get there. But after one week and three hotels, they left Utah resolved, in Collett's words, to "never come back to this city again."
When Collett came to Corban in 2005, he saw advertisements for a Utah mission trip and, despite his earlier experience, felt a desire to go back. This spring break was Collett's third venture to Utah.
It can be scary to talk to Mormons "and defend your faith," Collett acknowledged. "But knowing what you're going into helps a lot. It's nice when you know where the conversation is going to head."
Collett's earlier experiences helped prepare him for what to expect throughout the week.
"Most likely, no one is going to drop on their knees and accept [what we say]," he said. "It helps me to remember it's not about me, but about God who brings things to their completion."
Defending his faith against Mormons helped prepare him for defending it against the world, Collett said, and studying Mormonism led him to study his own theology further, deepening his understanding and appreciation of God's sovereignty and "the amazing free gift of grace."
The Corban team consisted of 13 students and two advisers. For Michael McLeod and six other Corban students, their March 25-30 spring break marked their first visit to Utah. The Corban team joined students from various colleges across the country in spending the months leading up to spring break preparing for volunteer trips to Utah to share the Gospel with Mormons via an independent ministry Utah Partnership for Christ based in Ogden.
McLeod had some Mormon friends before he enrolled at Corban and heard them say they believed in Jesus, assuming they believed in the same God he did. But his eyes were opened when he talked to team members who had gone to Utah last year.
Now, McLeod said, "[I want] to verbally defend what the Bible teaches. I want to defend the truth."
Similar to Collett, McLeod found that the study of Mormonism strengthened his own beliefs. He grew to appreciate the call for Christians to test the things of the world with Scripture.
"I just want Mormons to investigate Scripture more," McLeod said. "They believe in the Bible and it says they need to test things with Scripture. If they are believing the Bible, shouldn't they be doing that?"
However, McLeod found the trip to be more complicated than that. When several team members visited Temple Square on the second day of the trip, McLeod was asked to leave the site while he was having a "friendly" conversation with a visitor to the temple.
"It's frustrating," McLeod said. "Living in America where we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, we can't talk to Mormons in a friendly manner on their temple grounds about our different beliefs."
McLeod, like Collett, also had to learn to be patient when witnessing to Mormons, knowing that it may take years for them to realize the truth.
"God's going to make it grow, I just have to wait for it. You just have to have hope that they'll let Christ work in their hearts," McLeod said.
Dustin McNab is a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska.