My wife thinks I am nuts. I am back in Manti.
OK, so I went Thursday and was the first target a fellow from Idaho Falls witnessed to. I suspect that is sort of like picking Darth Vader to test out your new light saber you found at the bottom of a power shaft. He seemed a little unnerved, but I was nice. Anyway, after raining on his party, I politely excused myself, and walked off.
I found Aaron Shafovaloff standing in the street, and he was wrapping up speaking with a couple of folks, so I kind of small talked with him. Then he started asking if I believed I worked or merited salvation. Despite trying a dozen different ways explaining that while I believe Jesus is the Savior of those who obey him (Hebrews 5:9), and therefore by implication is NOT the Savior of those who disobey him, our reason for obedience is love, not "earning" salvation, since it is impossible to earn or work our own salvation. He said many Mormons have said we must work to obtain exaltation and therefore we merit salvation. I kept telling him depending upon the context of the statements, people may say that, but if you put the question to them whether they could become perfect without Christ, no LDS with even half a conscious brain in Church could come away thinking they don't need him. I reminded him that President Kimball said no one, no matter how good, could be saved without the atonement of Christ, and that no matter how powerful the atonement of Christ, no one can be saved without doing their part. It is the very nature of a covenant that it is a promise between two parties.
Aaron kept saying that meant I did believe my works merited or earned salvation, and I said "I am just going to stand on Hebrews 5:9, with the Biblical Christians, and that speaks for itself." Aaron's style is to shoot questions at you rapid fire, let you answer a little bit, quickly restate your position into his words turning it into whatever he sees as non-Christian, and then trying to make you see why your statement is false. He was very rude, talking over me, raising his voice, and repeatedly engaging in sarcasm, even though I treated the conversation seriously throughout. A companion of his standing nearby repeatedly tapped Aaron on the shoulder signaling to lower his voice and calm down, and I finally said I needed to move on, to which he replied "I accomplished my goal, I kept you from talking to others." I told him insincere conversation was sinful, and he needed to repent, and I walked away.
A few minutes later he caught up to me, and wanted to say he was over the top and wished me well, and I told him I didn't particularly care, it was obvious he did not really care what the LDS Church or members believe. He said he treated me differently because I am "an arm chair apologist". I told him there is no excuse, and kept walking.
The second night, unbelievably, Bill McKeever had his little wagon again from last year, but this year he had stacks of weights. When he saw me, he challenged me to grab fifty pound of weights and better be able to out run him. One of the kids standing by, a lanky tall teenager all of 140 pounds or so grabbed the weights and casually started walking off. Bill said "Come back", but the kid kept walking, then started running towards the food court. It was funny because Bill had to run after him, but the skinny kid just got tired and had to put the weights down, otherwise a big kid might have made him go quite a distance.
So I of course told the folks to keep asking him how much the witnesses who lifted the plates said they weighed. Since the witnesses said 40-60 pounds, and Bill tells people over 100 lbs, he gets really mad at being exposed as distorting the historical record. Bill yelled, very loudly, about how deceptive I was, and an anti-Mormon fellow whom I have seen before, but who refused to tell me his name, walked over and said "You just have a spirit of contention about you." So I told him I understood Jude in the Bible told us to contend for the Faith, and I wondered if he had decided that portion of the Bible was unimportant, because I found my behavior consistent with scripture, since I don't yell at people or call them names, but just respond with facts and scriptures. He said he had had a stroke in February (I think), and he was here because we needed the truth, and he reiterated how I was just contentious. I told him I was fine with that, that since he did not believe in the full teachings of the Bible, I was comfortable I had the truth, and, as I do with all the "faith only" Evangelicals, I asked him who was it that Jesus was Savior for, those who believed or obey? He said believe, and I asked him why he did not believe the teachings of the Bible, and again gave the Hebrews 5:8-9 reference, and quoted it to him, adding that I found it pretty much indefensible on his part to attack the Mormons as false when he rejected the express teachings of scripture. He got so made, he literally almost started to spit as he spoke. I asked him what happened to that calm, judgmental demeanor he just had, and how I found it funny that because he is losing the debate, he becomes angry. He walked off, and later he walked up to me as I was speaking with Bob Verdin while he was speaking with two teenage LDS boys, and this man told me I was just a trouble maker and should leave. I laughed, and Bob Verdin said "It's alright, he is my friend."
Last story for today. I was standing talking with some of the 34 women and girls who dressed up as Joseph Smith's wives, and asking them who among them had had children other than Emma, and just sort of pursuing the conversation with them, when this short fellow walks up to my right hand side and starts mumbling something. I ignored him initially, and then asked him if he was praying for me. He said he was, and then he proceeded to stalk me for about an hour, everywhere I went. He finally left when he bore his testimony to me that I did not have the Melchizedek priesthood. I told him as far as I could determine, there are only two "true" priesthoods named in the Bible, the Melchizedek and the Aaronic/Levitical. I asked him which priesthood Peter had in mind in 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6? Did he believe a non-Levite could be a Levitical priest, and if not, did that not leave just a single choice? Anyway, after praying for me for a while, he left.
As I walked away that evening, Bill McKeever was with a group of folks and I said something to them which I don't remember, but Mr. Bill started yelling what a deceiver I was, and I respond by pointing out how it surprised me how angry a good Christian like Mr. Bill was, who claimed to love the Mormons and have a heart for the truth. Mr. Bill just kept yelling what a deceiver I was, so I just said "God bless you", and walked away.
"the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center."(1 Nephi 16:2). Especially when they know they are distorting LDS doctrine and history, has been my experience.