By Scroll reporters Truman Burgess and Grady Ellsworth
General conference is a time for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and nonmembers alike to gather and hear the words of the prophets, apostles and other leaders of the Church. They come from different walks of life and backgrounds with the same goal. As these men and women eagerly file into the Conference Center, there are also those outside of the Conference Center who protest the teachings of the Church and general conference. Scroll interviewed many of these protesters to see their perspectives.
While some of these men and women have large signs and loud voices in an attempt to get the attention of those that pass by, they don’t intend to come off as hostile. According to these protesters, their main goal is to bring unto others what they believe to be true. They say that they feel a deep concern for general conference attendees.
“It’s not protesting,” said Lonnie Percival, who has shared his thoughts of general conference and the Church at every session since 1993. “For me it’s preaching because I have the Bible, which gives me the grounds of what to do and what not to do. What I preach from the Bible is different from what Mormons believe, and when there are two clashing sides, one’s got to give.”
While some of these protesters called for repentance and re-evaluation to those who passed them by, other protesters sought to have one-on-one exchanges with individuals as they offered to pass out flyers to share their beliefs. As they took a different approach than other protesters, they still made it their goal to spread what they believe to be true.
Christina, a born again Christian, wielded two wooden canvases, one of which included a picture of a bleeding heart with a devil face printed on top. She screamed across the Conference Center’s courtyard about the wickedness of members of the Church.
The solution to sin, she yelled next to the police officers, is a penitent heart.
Joseph, a young adult holding an oversized sign that read “Jesus Loves Mormons,” patiently and quietly stood on the opposite side of the courtyard from Christina.
“I’m not out here to scream or to hate on anyone,” he said. “I want to be gentle but give people a chance to see all sides. I want people to know what Jesus said and the gospel that I believe he really gave to his disciples.”
Preston, a non-denominational Christian, came to Salt Lake City on his own accord. He casually passed out flyers under a budding maple tree. He shared his own journey discovering God and giving up materialism.
“You know, I used to think, ‘If I buy this, I’ll be happy. If I get this, I’ll be happy’ … but it never gave me happiness. And so now God fills that hole. Now I know what my purpose is. It’s not to go out and buy stuff, trying to get all that. It’s to serve Him. I mean, He’s given me such a gift. That’s life, isn’t it?”
Bradley Campbell, a pastor for The Mission Church Utah, moved from Illinois to South Jordan, Utah to preach to this demographic, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Campbell and six other men from his congregation passed out flyers arguing against some doctrines taught by the Church.
Scroll asked Campbell and his friends why they came out to Temple Square.
“Jesus stood outside the temple to talk with people to interact with the religious leaders to teach his disciples,” he said. “And so we want people who don’t know Christ who are far from Him, distant from Him, to know Him. So we go to where the people are. There are lots of people here, lots of people who don’t know Christ. That’s why we’re here — we care about their eternity, and we really do believe Hell is the final destination for Latter-day Saints.”
Other coverage for general conference can be found on Scroll‘s website.