November 19, 2011

Marathons and Mormonism

From Kendra:

School is going well for us both. There are only a couple more days until we have Thanksgiving break, which we will spend by the ocean in El Salvador. The PTA is hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner for us on Wednesday, which allows us to have some turkey. The only thing we will be missing is family, which we will be missing greatly. Thankfully only a few weeks after break we will be headed the States for Christmas!

Collin was kind enough to come and visit the 1st grade class and read to us. He read his childhood favorite, The Little Engine that Could.  

First graders have also been on a roll with their quotes lately:

1. I asked my students, “What do animals use plants for?” One student answered, “Sometimes dogs use trees for a bathroom!”

2. One student got scraped up after he fell off his skateboard. The next day at school he told me, “My mom says if you take off my bandaid you will be able to see my meat!”

3. We learned about the story of Ruth in Bible class. I asked my students, “Who was Naomi’s husband?” One student answered, “Old McDonald!”

4. One student came up and said, “Mrs. Broekhuis, my brother told me that ‘Trouble’ is his second name!”

5. A first grader reciting Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presidents of my enemies.”

6. And speaking of presidents, every day I ask the class helper how they feel today and why. This helper said, “Today I feel hopeful, because we have a new president. The last presidents have not been good, but this president might do good things.” Even the children understand.

From Collin:

China’s population is growing so rapidly, that if their entire population would start walking past you, the line would never end. I suppose that is a terrible analogy for anybody that has never watched thousands of people walk by, but Kendra and I had that opportunity last Sunday. The anual half-marathon in Xela had around 3,000 participants, and we watched all of them run, jog, speed walk, and trudge by. It took about 45 minutes, which is not really that many compared to the Boston or Chicago marathon, but when you are supposed to clap for everybody who went by, it made it seem like forever. Our hands were tingling by the end.

Kendra’s favorite part of the marathon was when this man ran by yelling “MOO-chas gracias!”

But, we ended up sitting next to a family from the school, who invited us in for juice and fruit afterwards…which turned into an invite to play games…which turned into an invite to go out to lunch with them…which turned into an invite to go out for ice cream after lunch. You gotta love Guatemalan hospitality. During our time with this family, they taught us how to eat straight sugar cane, in which you bite into the cane and suck out the sugar. They also introduced to a weird fruit called granadia. When you open this fruit up, it looks like hundreds of seeds surrounded by pouches of puss. Luckily, it tasted a whole lot better than it looked.

From Kendra:

Yesterday, we went to visit the new Mormon temple that was just built here in Xela. The only time when non-Mormons are allowed to enter the temple is right after it is built. The Mormon Church is having a two-week open house for visitors, but then only Mormons will ever be allowed to be on the grounds of the temple. 

It is one of two Mormon temples in Guatemala, and one of about 5 temples in Central America. We were not allowed to take pictures inside of the temple, but I was allowed to take one of the outside. Before our visit, we did not know much about the Mormon faith. I didn’t even know they were called the “Church of Latter Day Saints.” The only thing that I knew about Mormonism is that they have the Book of Mormons, which accompanies the Bible, and that some Mormon men are polygamists. (I learned that from watching “Sister Wives” on TLC, which was then revoked this weekend when I learned that most of the Mormon Church does not accept polygamy as an acceptable practice anymore.)

But the Mormon population in Guatemala is the 8th largest in the world. It made us wonder, what is so attractive about this religion? Why are Christians leaving the church and converting to Mormonism? From our tour in the temple, and from meeting a few Mormons this weekend, we could see a few reasons. From outside appearances, Mormonism looks beautiful. Mormons themselves are faithful to their beliefs and their church customs. They are very kind and service-oriented, in my opinion, putting Christian groups to shame. (Young Mormon men have to commit themselves to two years of missionary service, of which we see many walking around in Xela.) Mormons are a very well-organized church, and they are also one of the richest churches in the world, because members tithe the full 10%, which makes sense why they were able to build a new temple that costs 44 million dollars!

Our tour started out with a 20 minute video about why temples were important in Biblical history, and how they believe that temples are still the dwelling place of God today. On our tour we had a guide leading us, and a person following quietly behind us. The temple did not look like I expected. I thought it would be like a large cathedral, when it was actually built with many smaller rooms. The rooms were beautiful and ornate, and they honestly reminded me of very fancy hotel lobbies with cushy chairs and plants. The floors were made of marble, the windows were stain-glass, and the chandeliers were of crystal jewels. There were rooms for chapel and learning. There were locker rooms to change into mandatory white robes and a room especially for baptisms. Baptisms at the temple are only done for people who want to get baptized on behalf of their relatives who have already died. Their deceased relatives can then choose whether or not they accept the baptism. There was a room where only a bride and her mother will ever enter. There was a room where Mormon couples get married, and according to them, are “eternally married even after death.” Only their Mormon relatives will be allowed to attend, because Mormon couples have to get married in the temple, and only Mormons may enter the temple.

As we progressed through the rooms, the ceilings got higher and the lights got brighter. Our guide said that this is because we were getting closer to God’s presence. In the last room, we were not even allowed to talk, because we were in the room where God was dwelling. We were supposed to simply meditate on our own relationship with God.

Like I said, the temple was beautiful. The people were sincere and friendly. They even gave us a cookie and a juice box afterward. They quoted scripture and said things that sounded very biblical and Christian. But Matthew 7:15 says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”

In church today, this passage was used by the guest speaker, named Joel Groat. He is the director of ministries at the Institute for Religious Research, which is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan!!! He taught us about the history and beliefs of Mormonism, and how this religion truly is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The history of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is terrible and ugly, and his beliefs are even uglier.

The Mormon religion is based on visions that Joseph Smith claimed to have. However, story where he received the vision and what the vision was about changed five times over five years. He claimed that he received prophecies by putting a rock in a hat, and then putting his face in the hat. He would say what the rock told him through the hat, and men would write it down. These prophecies are put together in now what is called the Book of Mormons.

In order to become a Mormon, you have to vow that you believe in the Book of Mormons, the creeds of Joseph Smith. These beliefs contradict many of our core beliefs as Christians. Their beliefs include that God has a human body, that men are all sons of gods, and that salvation comes through grace after  you do all that you can to earn your own salvation through good works. Everybody goes to heaven, but you must do good works to earn your way to higher levels of heaven. Like I mentioned before, people can be baptized for their deceased relatives. Their beliefs contradict the doctrine of the Trinity, the all-powerful nature of God, the infallibility of scripture, and that our salvation comes through Christ alone.

When I think about the Mormon Church and the new Mormon temple in Xela, I am grieved by the fact that so many have been already been deceived. Many kind and sincere and wonderful people have joined the Mormon Church, not knowing the history or the core beliefs that make up the religion. We live in a time where many people will be deceived, and where Christians need to know and remember what they believe. There are false prophets and false teachers everywhere, trying to make things look and sound beautiful and innocent, when really underneath what they are selling is ferociously ugly and evil.

Heed Christ's warning in Matthew 10:10: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Grace and Peace,
Collin and Kendra