Rev. Brian Tebben of Salt Lake City, Utah, is familiar with criticism of the Mormon Church. “Talking to people I sometimes hear, ‘As soon as I drove into the valley I felt this spiritual darkness,’” Tebben said.
Rev. Brian Tebben with his daughter, overlooking the Salt Lake City valley.
However, he and parishioners of First Christian Reformed Church of Salt Lake don’t feel that spiritual darkness. “We see them as a people; we don’t just write them off as a cult,” he said.
“We just don’t believe that territorial view of demons,” said Tebben. “I believe there’s spiritual warfare; I just don’t believe it’s intensified in Salt Lake. It’s a perception of Mormons that we’re trying to fight.”
Tebben sees Mormonism as a culture more than anything else. Locals have told him they are Mormons but that they don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. They just want to find a church where they can worship. “That nails it on the head. Mormonism is a worldview, a mission field. We see it as a culture that we’re trying to reach,” Tebben said.
“There are striking major theological differences [between Mormonism and Christianity],” Tebben admits. “They are immense.” However, the differences don’t prevent the church from reaching out.
Part of reaching out includes First CRC’s current sermon series based on Our World Belongs to God, A Contemporary Testimony. “We’re presenting a more Reformed view of the world,” stated Tebben. “God restoring the world to the way it’s meant to be. The world belongs to God. He’s in charge.
“We’re a Christian Reformed church with a Reformed worldview, but understanding that many of the new people who are coming—they just want a Christian church to be at,” he said. “Balancing their views of baptism and other stuff is an interesting situation. It requires a lot of patience. I’m not going to pressure them to become Christians. I’m just glad they’re worshiping with us.”
Tebben reaches them the best way he knows how. “We preach a lot of grace,” he said. “Mormons aren’t grace centered. To be able to enter a temple, a Mormon must have a temple recommendation, which is based on if they are deemed worthy or not. The best thing to talk about with a Mormon is God’s grace, especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”