IDAHO FALLS — The singing and dancing of talented local youth did little to expel the excitement and nervousness of the 2,000-plus people who sat wondering how the evening was going to turn out.
The audience applauded vigorously as the performances concluded, yet there was still that nagging feeling of anxiety permeating the auditorium. Even the lighthearted jesting of the MC’s failed to remedy the crowd’s nerves.
Shortly after the performers returned behind stage Evangelical Pastor Steven Crane of Eagle Community Church, and Brigham Young University Professor and LDS author Brad Wilcox took their seats on a brightly lit section of the stage.
This is what the audience was waiting for — to hear from two people with very different backgrounds talk about religious topics that sometimes are the source of contention between those of different faiths.
“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 told the audience. “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 faith’s belief in God, Jesus Christ, scripture and salvation.
An issue Evangelicals and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday-Saints 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 what Mormons believe about God.
“You see, for us God and Jesus are separate beings,” he 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.
“I thought it was really great the way they were able to converse with each other and tell each other what they believe,” Devon Killian, a member of the LDS church told EastIdahoNews.com. “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 told EastIdahoNews.com. “I probably would have been a little more strident in drawing some of the lines, but I did appreciate the conversation.”
At the end of the event, EastIdahoNews.com took a moment to speak to both Wilcox and Crane.
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,” he said. “I just appreciate my friendship with Brad and hope we can do more of it.”
Wilcox expressed his gratitude 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,” he said.
Carrie Snider, EastIdahoNews.com
Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com
Matt McFarland, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com