Tour tells story of God’s work in Utah

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The Thursday afternoon bus tour gave participants opportunity to learn about Mormon beliefs, visit SMCC campuses and enjoy views of the mountains. Photo by Janae Rempel

Eighty-eight people filled a majority of seats on two buses that traversed the streets of Salt Lake City—each street numbered on a grid based on distance from the Salt Lake Temple at its center—on the SMCC Ministry and Impact Tour sponsored by MB Foundation Thursday, July 26.

Sandwiched between the 2018 USMB Pastors’ Conference and the National Convention, the tour made stops at Temple Square and two of South Mountain Community Church’s campuses. The goal of the tour was to provide participants with a better understanding of the Mormon culture, the ministry of SMCC and the work of God through the Mennonite Brethren.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to understand Mormonism and celebrate the amazing work God is doing in Utah through our MB family,” said Jon C. Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, following the tour.

SMCC lead pastor Paul Robie was one of two SMCC pastors and four MB Foundation staff that provided commentary during the Salt Lake City Ministry Tour Thursday afternoon. Photo: Janae Rempel

En route between locations, speakers representing SMCC and MB Foundation, including Paul Robie, Bruce Jost and Dennis Fast on one bus, and Mike Bell, Jon Wiebe and Garvie Schmidt on the other, fielded questions and dialogued about what tour participants heard and saw.

To better understand LDS beliefs, tour participants traveled first to Temple Square for a guided tour given by Mormon “sister” missionaries.

Beginning in the Assembly Hall, the missionaries shared briefly about LDS history and doctrine. According to LDS doctrine, the angel Moroni visited prophet Joseph Smith and revealed the location of the Book of Mormon on gold plates, which Smith later translated. The Book of Mormon and the Bible are two of the four holy books recognized in the LDS church. LDS pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and Utah remains the location of the LDS church headquarters.

Ministry tour participants, including Connie and Dennis Fast, walk to view two historic statues before concluding the brief tour of Temple Square. Dennis works for MB Foundation, and he and his wife are wearing t-shirts which were given at the end of the tour to all participants to celebrate the partnership of SMCC and MB Foundation. Photo by Janae Rempel

Transitioning outside, the tour made stops near statues depicting the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, which Mormons believe were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist and the apostles, respectively, in May 1829, giving authority to baptize and perform saving ordinances like the giving of the Holy Ghost.

The tour concluded in front of the temple, where the missionaries shared about temple work, including proxy baptism and temple marriages, as well as their personal testimonies.

As SMCC lead pastor Paul Robie later explained, an LDS person’s testimony is an important part of his or her belief system. According to www.lds.org, an LDS person’s testimony declares to others a belief in Heavenly Father’s love, in Jesus Christ as Savior, in the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, and in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the true church.

An LDS person will likely experience a feeling so overwhelming that his or her testimony becomes the primary evidence referred to when asked how one knows what he or she believes is true, Robie said. Knowing this, Robie said when people at SMCC share the gospel, they don’t talk about feelings; they talk about what Jesus has accomplished. 

Tour participants listen as their Mormon missionary tour guides explain the historic events depicted by two statues found in Temple Square. Photo by Janae Rempel

From Temple Square, participants traveled to SMCC’s Draper campus—the initial SMCC—where the two groups toured the facility before converging in the sanctuary to hear briefly from Robie, MB Foundation president Jon Wiebe and MB Foundation vice president Bruce Jost.

When Robie came to Utah as a Mennonite Brethren church planter in 1998, Draper was a city of about 28,000 people with no Protestant churches. Robie had a heart for reaching disenfranchised Mormons who were leaving a religion hinged on works-based righteousness in which an LDS person can never know if he or she has done enough to reach the highest of what they say are three levels of heaven.

Aware of ministering in this context, Robie tailored messages at SMCC to those with an LDS background, attributing the growth the church experienced to a set of values known as The SMCC Way.

These values are listed on SMCC’s website: the fully engaged attenders value and serve the guest; everyone can belong before they believe; maturity is measured by how well we love God and others; we trust the process in which God changes us from the inside out; and the truth of the Bible is explained in a helpful and hopeful way.

SMCC Draper campus pastor Rick Henderson talks with tour participants about the ministry of SMCC Draper, planted 20 years ago by Paul and Jini Robie.

With steady growth, SMCC outgrew its meeting space, eventually constructing its current 42,000 square foot facility in 2012 with $5.8 million in funding provided by MB Foundation.

Over time, SMCC birthed new campuses—with MB Foundation providing funding in St. George and South Jordan—and today encompasses six campuses at five locations across Utah with an average attendance of more than 3,000 people. SMCC continues its witness in a state where only 1.5 percent of people are evangelical.

SMCC South Jordan campus pastor Rob Ryerson and others from the congregation welcome tour participants to their new building with high-fives. The many windows incorporated into SMCC building designs are one way the churches convey transparency and openness. Photo by Janae Rempel

The bus tour concluded at the South Jordan campus, SMCC’s most recent building project. SMCC purchased land and constructed a worship facility at South Jordan with $2.3 million in funding provided by MB Foundation. Tour participants were greeted with smiles and high fives from campus pastor Rob Ryerson and staff and were given a tour and a brief message from Ryerson before loading the buses and returning to the University.

MB Foundation has over $10.5 million loaned out to SMCC to fund the buildings necessary to grow the ministry. MB Foundation currently has a loan portfolio of over $82 million, funded by 743 investors in the foundation’s certificate program.

SMCC campus facilities include colorful and welcoming areas for children. Kid-friendly spaces are a contrast to the plain facilities at most local LDS meeting places. Photo by Janae Rempel
Janae Rempel
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.

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