Southern Baptist missionaries Scott and Amanda Anderson are working to reach the Mormon population.
“There’s only one difference between my city in Utah and North Africa—it’s a shorter plane ride.” Those are the words of Arkansas Baptist missionary Scott Anderson who lives in the most densely populated area of Mormons in the country. According to the North American Mission Board, the area where the Andersons minister is 99.5 percent Mormon and the most unreached area in the United States.
Scott and his wife, Amanda, moved their family to the area from Arkansas over two years ago, but before that time, neither had any ties to the Mormon church. Utah was never a thought in their minds.
It wasn’t until two Mormons on a mission journey knocked on their door when Scott and Amanda’s hearts went out to the group. The Andersons grieved for the many people who had been deceived by this false religion. Scott sums up the Mormon teachings with a quote from Lorenzo Snow, one of the major prophets of Mormonism: “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be.” The religion teaches that the Christian Bible as we know it is corrupt and that the founding prophet Joseph Smith was the only one with the truth.
As the couple researched The Church of Ladder Day Saints and the state of Utah, they knew God was calling them there.
“We’re not anti-Mormon,” Scott says. “We’re pro-Gospel, pro-Bible, pro-Jesus.” The goal of this ministry is to seek and save the lost, no matter what the person’s background is, whether Mormon or otherwise.
“We’re not anti-Mormon,” Scott says. “We’re pro-Gospel, pro-Bible, pro-Jesus.”
Much like Islam, the Church of Ladder Day Saints has many similarities to evangelical Christianity, so Scott uses the commonalties between the two religions to build a bridge into spiritual conversations, such as biblical passages or teachings of Jesus.
Another great entry point is his Southern accent. “When people hear me speak, they ask where I’m from and why I’m there. When I say I’m Southern Baptist, they are amazed because they’ve met very few Baptists, and they want to know what we believe,” Scott says.
Scott’s most effective entry point is leading an evangelical Bible study on Wednesday nights. The group offers free pizza and Scott teaches a verse-by-verse study through individual books of the Bible. Because the group meets in a public area with plenty of passersby, people often stop just for pizza, or they might be curious about the book that they’ve heard about all their lives. “If they want to know more about the Bible, they can’t get this kind of teaching anywhere else. This is the only place that they can learn what the Bible says verse by verse,” Scott says.
The Andersons originally came to Utah to plant a church, but quickly found that if they wanted to be able to reach people, they would have to make friends and basically establish themselves as just everyday folks who simply live out their personal faith. “We had to be accepted as ‘not Mormon’ and be taken with a positive vibe,” Scott says.
It’s a difficult process making inroads into such a spiritually hostile environment. “I have shared the Gospel with one lady over 150 times, easily,” says Scott. “I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I was as clear as possible. And after 18 months she finally realized that Christians and Mormons aren’t talking about the same Jesus.”
Scott recently discovered a biblical principle that is particularly interesting to people—the idea of grace. “They would say they believe in grace,” Scott says, “but I tell them the difference between what they believe about grace and what the Bible actually says.”
The Andersons know they have to be ready to explain their beliefs at any time. There are no easy converts—most people they share the Gospel with have been steeped in false religion all their lives and know how to combat Christians with certain verses taken out of context. So Scott keeps 2 Corinthians 5:21 on the tip of his tongue at all times, which says, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He uses the Scripture to show how a person can’t add anything, not even good works, to his or her salvation.
Even though Scott and Amanda have not personally lead anyone to Christ yet, two of the young men that Scott disciples have. But it’s not for a lack of trying. The small evangelical church that the couple attends has prayer walking events, neighborhood Bible studies, and they minister to tangible needs of the poor, like food and clothing.
Adapting to the Environment
Scott’s ultimate vision has changed since he first started this journey. Rather than being a church planter himself, Scott hopes to create converts who can then plant churches among their own people. “A person who has a testimony like that will be a much better evangelist than we will be ... much more effective,” Scott says.
For an evangelical Christian, living in Utah is like a foreign land. Most evangelicals in the area are transplants from other parts of the country. Scott and Amanda must be discreet about sharing their faith or they may be ostracized or even lose their jobs. “We constantly live in a balance,” Scott says. “We must submit to authorities, but we have a higher ethic to obey. The reason we haven’t burned out is because we’re called!”
But Scott and Amanda are encouraged by the inroads they do make. “We are planting seeds as early and as often as we can,” Scott says.
How You Can Help
Scott encourages anyone from Arkansas, especially those who want to share the Gospel, to visit anytime. “Just start speaking to someone here. They will ask about your accent. You tell them that you’re Southern Baptist, and there’s your opportunity.”
Scott doesn’t share the Gospel aggressively or argumentatively. “You will never reach a Mormon if you start slamming their religion,” Scott says. But rather, he encourages you to share your testimony the way you would to any lost person and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
“It’s hard to believe that there are places like this in America,” Scott says, “but here we are.” The people right here in the United States still need missionaries, and the Andersons are following that call.
For more information about the Anderson family or if you desire to partner with them in any way please email them at: Resolved4Provo@gmail.com.