The singing and dancing of talented youth did little to expel the anxious excitement of the 2000-plus people who sat wondering what was going to happen next.
The audience applauded vigorously as the performances concluded, yet there was still that nagging feeling of anxiety permeating throughout the auditorium. Even the lighthearted jesting of the emcees failed to remedy the crowd’s nerves.
Shortly after the performers returned backstage, Evangelical Pastor Dr. Steven Crane of Eagle Community Church and BYU professor and LDS author Dr. Brad Wilcox took their seats on a brightly lit section of the stage. This is what the audience was waiting for. Even so, their anxiety only increased in anticipation of what these two people of very different backgrounds were going to say.
“What we are going to do tonight is, we’re going to have dialogue and we’ve kind of invited you along to be part of that,” Crane said. “Now, I want you to know that what we are going to do tonight is not rehearsed.”
On June 8 Christ Community Church hosted the Evangelical-Mormon Conversation at the Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium. Crane and Wilcox engaged in a bold conversation about their two different faiths. They discussed the differences between the two faiths’ belief in God, Jesus Christ, scripture and salvation.
An issue Evangelicals and Mormons have when talking about their beliefs is that they each use similar terms, but those terms can mean different things within their belief systems. One of those terms is God.
“We need to go deeper than the surface ‘do you believe in God?’ when you have discussions like this and find out that we really do mean something different,” Crane said.
He explained, for an Evangelical, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are viewed differently than how Mormons view them.
“We do believe, Father, Son, Holy Spirit,” Crane said. “We believe in the Trinity, which is not a biblical word, but I believe it’s a biblical concept. The tri-unity of God. Now, we’re talking one God.”
Wilcox explained that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a very different understanding of God.
“You see, for us, God and Jesus are separate beings,” Wilcox said. “We believe that God is literally related to us. That he is the father of our spirits.”
The speakers did not hesitate to delve into difficult topics. They took time to explain their various beliefs, making a point to expound upon their differences, which, at times, elicited mutters or applause from the audience.
While it was not the main focus of the conversation, they pointed out similarities in their beliefs wherever possible.
“I thought it was really great the way they were able to converse with each other and tell each other what they believe,” said Devon Killian, a sophomore studying communication who attended the event. “Each person told what they believed in and they weren’t ashamed of it, they just declared it and they appreciated one another”.
Pastor Dave Bass of New Geneva Presbyterian Church said he believes their conversation will have a positive impact on the community.
“I appreciated the tone, I appreciated the conversation,” Bass said. “I probably would have been a little more strident in drawing some of the lines, but I did appreciate the conversation.”
Crane said he hopes Evangelicals and Mormons will be able to have good conversations with each other and really try to understand each other.
“I thought it was a great evening,” Crane said. “I just appreciate my friendship with Brad and hope we can do more of it.”
Wilcox said he was grateful for the appreciation and respect Crane showed him and hopes Crane felt the same from him.
“I felt like we had a goal to model a kind and respectful conversation, and I think we reached that goal,” Wilcox said.