Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City, Utah…Trading the Gospel of Joseph Smith for the Gospel of Jonathan Leeman?

Today The Wondering Eagle is looking at the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City, Utah. This hard core Neo-Calvinist church is in the 9 Marks network. My question is does Steve Clark understand Mormon culture? Why would a person leave Mormonism only to get involved in a 9 Marks church and then face “church discipline” and be shunned a second time? Steve Clark’s church is one that The Wondering Eagle hopes it can close in the course of time. The EFCA should be embarrassed that in ground zero of Mormonism, this is the church that represents the denomination. 

We aspire to be a joy-filled community that treasures God in Christ supremely, obeys the Bible completely, loves others selflessly, and spreads the gospel intentionally. We do this through expositional preaching, geographically-based community groups, and smaller discipleship groups, where we most intensely attend to each others’ souls. We also pursue these aspirations through specific ministries for youth and children.

How the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City describes itself on 9 Marks 

“Since the spring of 1820, Lucifer has led a relentless attack against the Latter-day Saints and their leaders. A parade of anti-Christs, anti-Mormons, and apostate groups have appeared on the scene. Many are still among us and have released new floods of lies and false accusations. These faith-killers and testimony-thieves use personal contacts, the printed word, electronic media, and other means of communication to sow doubts and to disturb the peace of true believers… Avoid those who would tear down your faith. Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit. ”

Carlos E Asay in Ensign in  November of 1981 on why you shun. 

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who calledyou to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Galatians 1:6-9 NIV 

Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith (Image from Wikipedia) 

Jonathan Leeman of 9 Marks 

How leaving Mormonism came close to tearing apart a LDS marriage 

Religion can be profoundly dark at times, and there are ways when you can witness that first hand. When I was in college I was in the process of looking into the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was attracted to Mormonism because I liked their missionary program, evangelism, conservative nature and patriotism. I worked with Mormon missionaries both in California and Montana for nearly two years. For my parents it caused a crisis for them in the family. My Mom and Dad were horrified and I had some intense fights with them over the Mormon faith, problems in Catholicism and more. My involvement in the LDS faith forced my parents to go into a Bible study and it forced them to pray for me. But when I was in college in Montana I had freedom to  explore the Mormon faith more. Yet I faced problems when one college student was shocked that I rooted for Brigham Young, and I hid my Book of Mormon/Doctrine & Covenants in my dorm room in the same way some people in college hide alcohol. One of the darkest experiences regarding religion happened in a Fast and Testimony service which is on the first Sunday of the month. It is one that I will never forget. 

At the time I was either 21 or 22 and a college student. And I sat in the ward service and listened to people give their testimonies. I remember one that to this day still haunts me. A man in his 30’s or so stood up and gave his testimony. In his testimony he talked about how he knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord. He knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. And then this former Baptist broke down and started to cry in front of the ward. I was watching this when I heard weeping from behind me. There was an older woman who was crying. Then the man giving his testimony gathered his composure and he thanked his Baptist mother for coming to the church service. This man’s conversion into Mormonism had torn his Baptist family apart and as I recall this was the first time that he had spoken to his Mom in a long time. That Sunday in a Mormon church service I saw how dark religion can be when I saw what it could do to family. In time I rejected Mormonism, never was baptized and I walked away from it. It however left a lot of scars in my life. To read more about Mormonism and my involvement in it I would direct you to the following blog posts. “De-toxing From Mormonism…deals with me leaving Mormonism while the next post deals with how I became involved. “My Descent into Mormonism and My Cognitive Dissonance.” I also believe that evangelical Christian conversion into Mormonism validates Mark Noll’s thesis about the scandal of the evangelical mind. In short order many evangelical Christians struggle with discernment and critical thinking skills. As such Baptists and Presbyterians struggle with critical thinking skills and can’t realize that Joseph Smith is a fraud. You can read more in “From Mormonism in Montana to Sovereign Grace in the Washington, D.C. Area; The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Comes Full Circle.

 

Evangelical Free Church in Salt Lake City

I did a lot of research and could not find out much history of the Evangelical Free Church in Salt Lake City. However, if it was planted in the 1950’s or 1960’s then at some point it was theologically hijacked to get where it is right now. This is an Evangelical Free that is strongly affiliated with both 9 Marks and The Gospel Coalition. This is also a church that rejects psychological counseling and instead embraces David Powlison’s Biblical Counseling methods. Those who are dealing with bi-polar, depression, are suicidal or schizophrenic should avoid this church’s counseling program as it will make the program worse. In some cases in severe mental illness, people could be dead from such horrific “Biblical” counseling. That was one of the issues I believe that happened with Sovereign Grace. However, since this Evangelical Free allegedly does things in house that also raises another issue; has the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City had any incidents with child sex abuse and a sex offender and were they handled internally instead of going to the police? That is a fair question to ask in these kind of nouthetic counseling environments. You can check out their “Biblical” counseling page here. There is more I have to say on this counseling down below. 

You can read what Steve Clark’s church believes about the local church.  As a 9 Marks church the Evangelical Free of Salt Lake is all about church membership and membership covenants. Read what this church says about membership. 

A reality must be faced. We have to work out how the Bible’s teaching on the church applies on the local level. It’s true that once a person is saved, he or she is already a member of the universal church. Every true Christian is. So why talk about local church membership? Because it’s necessary for God’s greater glory in two arenas: the arena of the world and the arena of believers.

Later on it says the following about Godly leadership.

But it is also accomplished by the discipline of godly leadership that helps us resist our sin natures and upholds righteous standards in the body (1 Cor. 5:9-13).

Then this is how it describes the local church and the responsibilities of one.

In the local church God gathers all the spiritual gifts, all sorts and types of people, and establishes elders who rule with authority and shepherd the flock of God entrusted to them – a flock identified by the formal, self-commitment of sheep to the flock by way of membership. This local church administers the enduring ordinances of baptism and communion and is itself the “pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15) These other ministries may be good, but they are optional extensions of the main body. You need the church to persevere – and when that happens, you are blessed and God is honored.

And then of course you are mandated into church membership by a covenant. 

The Bible requires local church membership – formal commitment to the local church. In making this commitment, a Christian maximizes the benefit to him/herself. S/he also maximizes his/her involvement in God’s great transcendent plan of making for Himself a new people who will one day inhabit a New Heaven and Earth that is filled with His glory.

You can see the membership covenant attached in the following webpage. In it you will see that church discipline is important, and not only does the church engage in church discipline but members are encouraged to participate in the process. 

 

Steve Clark the Senior Pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City 

Overview of Steve Clark 

Leading the Evangelical Free in Salt Lake City is Steve Clark. Steve came to the Salt Lake Valley in the fall of 2005. This is his first full time EFCA pastorate. Steve has had a diverse ministry prior including Evanston Bible Fellowship for two years. He then served on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for eight years. That includes Crusade at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, as well as possibly Crusade at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  Steve also spent some time overseas but as to where I do not know. Steve attended college at the University of Illinois. The main location in the Illinois system is Urbana  – Champaign, however there is also an extension at Chicago and Springfield as well. Steve then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and he is ordained by the EFCA. In his free time he likes to golf, hike and explore the mountains and is into military miniatures.  To my knowledge Steve hasn’t published anything at 9 Marks, Desiring God or The Gospel Coalition. And a quick check of both Amazon and Crossway reveal that he has not published any books. 

 

Why would Angel risk losing her marriage and seeing her kids, and being shunned only to get involved in the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City to be shunned a second time? 

Why be Shunned from the Mormon Church Only to be Shunned by a 9 Marks Church? 

There is one aspect to Mormonism that is exceptionally dark. Is is something that Mormons do incredible well to “apostates,” people who walk away or people who are also doubters. That is the practice of shunning. It is not formal but its a part of the culture, and to be shunned is painful. To get a better understanding watch that first video up above and listen to the wife talk about how she reacted when her husband was reading “anti-Mormon” material, in their bedroom. In her mind it was the equivalent, if not worse to pornography. The LDS Church culture can encourage people to shun those who leave the Mormon faith. The church has even gone so far as to encourage people to divorce their non-believing spouse.  If you want to read some jaw dropping stories spend a few minutes reading about how former Mormons explain how they were shunned by families and friends. In that webpage you can read of  parents shunning grand kids and other children, friends cutting people off, and even shunning taking place at a funeral. In addition to all that The Washington Post had an interesting article about someone going through a divorce who also is leaving the Mormon church simultaneously. You can read about it “I left my husband and the Mormon Church at the same time.” 

So here is the problem…you are going to have from time to time someone who leaves the Mormon faith. In the process they are dealing with shunning, as they have had family or friends who have cut them off. As a result they may be dealing with mental health issues and are in a lot of psychological pain. They are adjusting to a new life and trying to figure things out, from drinking coffee, to dressing differently to trying alcohol or even experimenting with sex. You could be dealing with people who spent most of their life in conformity in a very controlling way who are going wild or pushing the limits of life as they figure themselves out. Plus is Steve Clark aware that Utah leads the United States in depression and that some believe its due to the influence of Mormonism? So you could be dealing with all that and then you have some warped Christian counseling program from David Powlison from Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) which is totally unprepared for these issues. So then you risk facing the possibility of facing church discipline and shunning a second time. Who the hell would want to get involved in the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City? Why be shunned a second time when you have already been shunned the first time? 

There is another factor here that I would also find fascinating. How would Mormons view the entire SGM scandal and the role 9 Marks played in it. If you remember in 2011 it all spilled out into the internet that C.J. Mahaney had allegedly blackmailed Larry Tomczak and had not reconciled or worked things out. You can read about that blackmail in “Has God Foreordained an Alleged Child Sex Abuse Cover up in Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches? Is that why CJ Mahaney is so Sacred?In addition, it also came out that there were serious allegations of covering up child sex abuse. So Mahaney fled and ran and hid behind Mark Dever’s ass at Capitol Hill Baptist Church here in my backyard of Washington, D.C. In the process Mark Dever violated 5 of the 9 Marks to include membership, church discipline, leadership, “The Gospel” and discipleship. You can read more in9 Marks: What is it? How Mark Dever Undermined it and Made it Worthless.”  So I wonder how the Salt Lake City community and those in Mormonism questioning their faith and poking around would react to that information. I will say that one is not going very far theologically from Mormonism into 9 Marks. They are both controlling organizations that are quite authorterian. 9 Marks is not what it claims, as 9 Marks is about advancing Neo-Calvinism. If you think I am wrong consider how a non Neo-Calvinist church is viewed that practices expositional preaching and more. One thing that people should know is that church discipline is only for the people in the pews. Mark Dever will never face church discipline, nor will any other celebrity personalities like Matt Chandler from The Village Church which is also 9 Marks. In the case of the Evangelical Free Church in Salt Lake City Steve Clark who leads the church will never face church discipline. Nor will Jed Brown, or Bryant Strain

 

The EFCA Should be Horrified at the Existence of a 9 Marks Church in Ground Zero of Mormonism 

In Utah it is said that the heart of Mormonism is in Provo which is 45 miles south of Salt Lake City. I have heard that 94% of Provo is Mormon as its also home to Brigham Young University. While that is the heart the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in Salt Lake City. It is hard to be a Christian in Utah, as there are many cultural issues that are challenging. Locals refer to it as the “Zion Curtain.”  Many people who leave Mormonism find they have to leave Utah.  So to read about Steve Clark’s church is a major disappointment. Not only that but there are a lot of problems that need to be pointed out. As you can see from this Deseret News article they have postings about the Evangelical Free Church in Salt Lake City. For those of you who do not know Deseret News is the newspaper owned by the Mormon Church. If I remember correctly it was set up to compete with the Salt Lake Tribune which has been a fierce critic of the LDS Church over its history. But here is another problem that exists that will be a barrier for Mormons. Mormons do not believe in the Trinity. That is why in The Gospel Coalition posting for this Evangelical Free Church it says the following. “Only through Jesus, fully God and fully man, the 2nd Person of the Triune God.” But here is the problem…as a Neo-Calvinist church they are most likely promoting Wayne Grudem who has an un-orthodox view of the Trinity. In Wayne Grudem he is practicing eternal subordination of the son which is rejected by mainstream orthodox Christian faith. You can read about the issues in “Wayne Grudem’s Un-Orthodox View of the Trinity and the Question that Must Be Asked: Can the ESV Bible be Trusted? Can you imagine how confusing this will be…you have someone who has left Mormonism who for all their existence was told the Trinity did not exist. Now they are exploring “Christianity” (remember this is Neo-Calvinism we are talking about) who then finds a different view of the Trinity. Can you imagine the confusion that sends? Can that person then start to struggle with the question, “Are the Mormons right after all about the Trinity? After all Wayne Grudem has a different take on the Trinity?” Because of this can the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City be confusing and as a result unintentionally be sending a person or two back to Mormonism convinced that the LDS faith is true? 

When I saw this website I was furious with what I was reading. Someone needs to give the Senior Pastor Steve Clark a good strong kick in the ass. Its clear that Steve is in his Neo-Calvinist bubble and that he doesn’t have a clue as to what he is doing in the middle of Utah. To cause this kind of needless division in the Christian faith in Utah is a disgrace. If I were EFCA West director Steve Highfill I would be hanging my head in shame over what is representing the EFCA in Salt Lake City. This is an EFCA church that needs to be closed. Steve needs to go back to Illinois and do something there, but the longer he operates in Utah the more problems and harm he is doing to the Christian faith, and creating needless barriers for Mormons who are trying to figure out what to do. 

 

The Wondering Eagle is Looking for Stories About Steve Clark’s Church 

This is an Evangelical Free Church that I want to write about. This has the ingredients for a lot of problems. Stop and think of it…Mormon culture, 9 Marks, Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism, church discipline, Jonathan Edwards, membership covenant all wrapped up together. I am more than willing to let former members of the Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City tell their story of problems or issues related to this church. I am also willing to let Mormons or others in the area tell their stories about their interactions with this Evangelical Free. My email is wonderingeagle261@gmail.com, please contact me and I will gladly give those who were involved or who can share the platform to say what happened or what went wrong. That’s it for the day guys, please know that I love you. 

One thought on “Evangelical Free Church of Salt Lake City, Utah…Trading the Gospel of Joseph Smith for the Gospel of Jonathan Leeman?

  1. When someone leaves a religion, I would always suggest that they take a break, and not join up with anything else for awhile. Joining a new church on the rebound is as hazardous as a rebound romance. When you are raw and hurting is not the right time to be making a decision like that, and you are likely to fall into the same old patterns that were the problem in the first place.

    Better to avoid commitments and spend time on private reading and reflection for a few months. Or, if there is a real need to do something organized, try the Unitarian Universalists. They won’t tell you what to believe, so you can have social support but still have the freedom to explore options.

    Liked by 1 person

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