Their churches may differ on doctrine, but a meeting between leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was described by one Baptist as "very gracious."
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of of the Twelve, met with several Southern Baptist representatives Friday, including Thomas D. Elliff, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Robert E. Reccord, president of the SBC North American Mission Board; R. Philip Roberts, director, Interfaith Witness Division; and Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and his first counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, are in England to dedicate a new temple in Preston and were unable to attend the meeting.
President Faust suggested that the two groups agree that they have differences and then asked what the LDS Church could do to be helpful and hospitable, Reccord said later at a press conference.
No evangelizing was done between the two groups. Instead, an LDS Church press release said the gathering was "pleasant and cordial" with discussions about common interests such as the societal ills of gambling, pornography, attacks on religious freedoms and attempts to legalize same-gender marriage.
The Baptists even joked that perhaps the LDS Church leaders could help them get Jazz tickets, but both sides agreed that particular task was beyond the control of either church, Reccord said later.
During the Friday press conference, Southern Baptist leaders wanted to talk about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and being good guests in this, the geographic center of Mormon faith.
But reporters kept pushing them on doctrinal issues that forced one to state that certain Mormon doctrines are heresy that could compromise an individual's salvation.
Reccord and Roberts repeatedly emphasized that Southern Baptists are not converging on Salt Lake City to win people away from the Mormon Church.
This weekend, the Southern Baptists are sponsoring their annual "Crossover," an evangelistic outreach held each year for the past 10 years in the cities where the faith has held its annual conventions.
It is meant to symbolize holding high the cross of Jesus Christ over that particular city, as well as the fact that Southern Baptists are crossing over from their hometowns into new areas to spread the gospel, which means "good news."
"A key part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the sharing of the gospel. It's called evangelism," said Reccord. "Are Southern Baptists coming to Salt Lake to proselytize? Absolutely not."
Reccord said the Baptists are intent on talking to people about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, regardless of the individual's denomination or whether that person even belongs to a church.
But the Baptist vs. Mormon questions kept coming.
"Is Mormonism heresy?" one reporter asked.
"Yes," replied Roberts, after prefacing his response with a fairly lengthy description of "dogmatic Mormonism" which he said includes such beliefs as God having once been a mortal man and that LDS temple attendance is essential for the fullness of salvation.
"And it compromises one's salvation?" the reporter asked.
"Yes," Roberts said.
"I can't believe how you're downplaying the LDS vs. Baptist confrontation!" another reporter exclaimed.
Both men insisted they were trying to be clear about the fact that there are theological differences between the two churches, but that the Southern Baptist Convention being scheduled here is not meant as a gauntlet thrown down in the face of Mormons.
Reccord said he has met Mormons who are genuine Christians, not because of their church membership but because of their personal faith in Christ.
For their part, Reccord said he hoped visits by the Southern Baptists are regarded as happy events. "When we leave, we want Salt Lake City to say, `It's really been good to have the Southern Baptists here.' "
He also said the Convention and its outreach are not intended to get people to become Southern Baptists. Instead, the work by Baptists here transcends denominations. He noted that 72 percent of Utah's population is Mormon, 8 percent belong to another church and 20 percent have no religious affiliation.
Baptist missionaries, or messengers, generally will introduce themselves during door-to-door canvassing, explain why they're there and ask a few questions if people want to talk.
Reccord said that if someone learns of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then ends up joining some other Christian church; for example, the Presbyterian, Lutheran or Assembly of God churches, "Our response to that is `Great!' The view we hold is a kingdom view, not a denominational view. The Southern Baptist Convention does not save people."
Many `Crossover' activities planned
The Southern Baptist Convention's "Crossover" activities include the following events that are open to anyone. Events are scheduled today, unless otherwise noted:
Block parties: Riverside Park, 739 North 1400 West, Salt Lake City, 1-5 p.m.; Holladay Baptist Church, 2780 East 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Emmanuel Bilingual Church, 270 North Harrison Blvd., Ogden, noon to 2:30 p.m.
"Day of Champions" sports clinics: Athletic assistance for students in grades 7 through 12 at Brighton High School, 2220 East 7600 South, from noon to 5:30 p.m. Sports are basketball, baseball, soccer and football. A rally with Kevin Singleton will be held at 4 p.m. Free pizza will be served at 5:30 p.m. to those attending the rally. Also that day at that location will be a "skate mania," featuring clinics and demonstrations of in-line skating from noon to 5:30 p.m. for students in grades 7-12.
Salt Lake Deaf Picnic: Southeast Baptist Church will host a picnic for the hearing impaired and their families from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Anzak Park, 1850 East 7200 South. All food, drinks and desserts will be provided.
Sports clinics (June 8-11): Athletic assistance for first grade through junior high age students at Churchill Junior High School, 3450 Oakview Dr. on June 8-9 from 9 a.m. to noon, and at Olympus High School, 4055 South 2300 East on June 10-11. Registration is at 8 a.m.
Door-to-door evangelism: First Southern Baptist Church, 240 West 1500 South, Bountiful; First Baptist Church, 2025 West 5700 South, Roy; Mountain View Baptist Church, Box 9, Layton; First Baptist Church, 3831 South 2700 West, West Valley City.
Street evangelism (June 5-12): Various locations throughout the Wasatch Front.
Inner-city evangelism (June 6-12): A team of 15 people, along with about 30 college students, will talk with individuals in several low-income and multihousing neighborhoods in Salt Lake City and Ogden.
Hispanic Crusade (June 12-14): Two held June 12 and 13 at Skyline High School, 3251 East 3760 South, and another on June 14 at Franklin Quest Stadium.