After years of ineffective and often acrimonious evangelism by various preachers and groups, a new coalition of evangelical clergy in Utah is attempting to treat Latter-day Saints (LDS) with respect.

Many orthodox Christians have denounced LDS theology throughout the church's history. Not surprisingly, leaders of the 11.7 million-member Salt Lake City-based church have expressed both resentment and distrust.

At the LDS semiannual general conference in October, adherents of the Utah chapter of World Wide Street Preachers Fellowship stomped on underclothes that LDS members consider holy. They also pretended to blow their noses and wipe their bottoms with the garments.

Three dozen evangelical leaders condemned the actions.

"You don't take what is sacred to another faith and denigrate it," said Greg C.V. Johnson, who leads Standing Together, a Salt Lake City ministry to Mormons. "It doesn't take courage to treat a person you disagree with in a disdaining fashion."

Johnson said he has been trying to build trust with LDS leaders for nearly three years. James Ayers, pastor of Valley Assembly of God, and 22 other evangelical leaders gathered at a press conference to denounce the street preachers.

"You don't build any bridges with actions like that," Ayers said. "Our purpose is to let the community know that these people don't represent all Christians in the city. We believe people need to be treated with dignity."

Mormon-evangelical dialogue isn't new, but until now it has been limited in scope. Johnson has engaged in high-level talks with Mormon leaders, and he has received two letters of gratitude from LDS apostles for denouncing the tactics of the street preachers.

Civil discourse

He believes that evangelicals have a greater potential ...

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February 2004

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